While studying chinese philosophy, we learned about Mozi. The influence of Mozi's philosophy, or Mohism, according to my teacher and confirmed through personal research, died out during the Han dynasty in 220 AD. Yet Confucianism, concieved of slightly earlier in the same time, not only survived as official doctrine of the Han, but continues to exert enormous influence over China and East Asia all the way till the current day. Why did Confucius's philosophy outlive Mozi's? Is Mozi's universality over partiality really that impracticable, or is East Asia just too family oriented for universality to take hold?

  • While on the one hand, this is a very interesting question, there's not much we can do here but purely speculate. The family oriented nature of East Asia seems to be partially a function of Confucianism (though - n.b., Confucianism is a word with many meanings). And why certain ideas succeed or fail seems to be something we're not going to be able to resolve.
    – virmaior
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 0:38
  • Okay @virmaior. I had just thought that scholars had come up with some opinion on the matter.
    – Cicero
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 0:39
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    I actually work in Chinese philosophy, and I've never seen a clear answer as to why Mohism declined and Confucianism flourished per se. There's an infinite number of tangential and non-philosophical bits of explanation, however. To give one, "Confucianism" was co-opted by the Chinese state at several points as useful for governing (though at an earlier point it was suppressed).
    – virmaior
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 0:42
  • 2
    @virmaior would it be possible to not close this question, but answer it saying why that is impossible to tell?
    – user2953
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 5:55

2 Answers 2


The reason of the extinction might be or might not be so complicated as far as I checked.

According to 呂氏春秋 "Spring and Autumn of Master Lü"( English version ), which was published by the Councelor In Chief Of Quin Dynasty Lü Buwei 呂不韋 ( English ), the the members of the group was tied with each other like a some religious group, as it is said, when the later final dynasty 秦、Qin, invaded into 楚 Chu ( Please see the warring map around BC260 ) and encircled one of the castles of Chu, obeying with one of their ten doctrins ( English ), 非攻 = “Inclusive Care” and “Rejecting Aggression.” ( from the link ), 400 people committed suicide when the castle was finally fallen by.

Their ten doctrines seemed to have served the followers so much, so that as you can see at the link except for the doctrine Heaven's Intention” and “Elucidating Ghosts., their main focus is quite economic as well as searching for common good. 2 doctrines of theirs are quite famous, as it was even filmed in 墨攻 ( I happened to have found an American reviewing this film shortly as well as explaining about the way of thinking of Mohism. a little bit ( filmed in 2006 )), which are 兼愛 and 非攻, = “Inclusive Care” and “Rejecting Aggression.”. Since they rejected as quoted the aggression from oneselves, but they served as mercenaries so that the defenders can save their territories ( which is, according to their doctrines ), they seemed to have very sophisticated war techniques such as engineering works or metallurgy. Therefore, when finally Qin dynasty conquered entire China in BC221, it is probably quite due enough for me to consider they were not needed anymore and their war techniques could have been considered as dangerous. As Wiki ( above ) says below

During the Warring States period, the Hundred Schools of Thought comprised many different philosophies proposed by Chinese scholars. In 221 BC, however, the First Emperor conquered all of the states and governed with a single philosophy, Legalism. At least one school of thought, Mohism, was eradicated, though the reason is not known. Despite the Qin's state ideology and Mohism being similar in certain regards, it is possible that Mohists were sought and killed by the state's armies due to paramilitary activities.

So my assumption would not be off the point so much since Mohism looked to have became the first and foremost target of the eradication.

Now, whereas, Mohism seemed to have been considered as unique or irregular group from that age, such as

“Rejecting Music” and “Rejecting Fatalism.” The humane (ren) person opposes the extravagant musical entertainment and other luxuries enjoyed by rulers and high officials, because these waste resources that could otherwise be used for feeding and clothing the common people. Fatalism is not ren, because by teaching that our lot in life is predestined and human effort is useless, it interferes with the pursuit of economic wealth, a large population, and social order (three primary goods that the humane person desires for society). Fatalism fails to meet a series of justificatory criteria and so must be rejected.

**At that time music was a ritually important.

Now, I would like to introduce this doctroral writing, since although it is doctoral, but the author is using 85 sources and 20 books. And the above author's professor was now a retired Chinese expert of a university.

I would like to present her work online just in summary since translating word by word is just enormous.

According to her, Mohists were quite practical people as well as accoring to her saying a "defense group". She says Maohists considered for common good ( actually for China itself ) but their thought is to quite exent contrary to that of Confucius.

1 Origin of Mohi or Mohists

3 proposals ( A - C ) are most accepted and the last one is rejected by many.

A : Origin : Slave

In Chinese, 墨 denotes tattos, thus indicating they may be slave origin.

B : Some kind of craftsmen

Mohists called their leader as 鉅子. 鉅 denotes in English a ruler, or a measure, and considering therir sophisticated knowledge of manufacturings, their origin may be craftsmen.

C : Warrior or nobles

They are so well educated too, thus their works quoting that of Confucius and others, so that their origin might have come from some high class.

D : Hindis ( Rejected by many theorogians )

Their thoughts look like that of Buddhism and the name of their deciples are unique compared with other Chinese at that time, so they may have been hindi origin. ( But rejected since such claim is too expeditious. )

2 : Their activity period and remarkable incidents

She presumes their activity reached to the highest around from BC450-BC390, warring time of China. I described their remarkable incidennts,group suicide, includng their leader ( Please see above. )

3 : Their works and its contents.

She says, most of their original works were lost and only 53 works are remaining. Please refer about the summary of their works up above in the ten doctrines. ( English )

For their contents, Please refer to the above link for summary, since I can not translate due to the length ( so broad. )

4 : Mohi himself and Mohists

She proposes that Mohi did not have such a power as a leader but was a pure thinker. From the age of the second leader, 孟勝 ( No English available with sorry ), they became a powerful group, preachng defense techniues as well as division of labor, and economical activities.

Please read the English wiki about Xunzhi 荀子

It was around this time that Xunzi visited the state of Qin and praised its governance, and debated military affairs with Lord Linwu (臨武君) in the court of King Xiaocheng of Zhao.


Of his disciples, the most notable are Li Si (prime minister to the first Qin emperor) and the Han state royal Han Feizi, who developed the quasi-authoritarian aspects of his thought into the doctrine called the School of Law, or Legalism. Because of Li Si and Han Feizi's staunch anti-Confucian stances, Xunzi's reputation as a Confucian philosopher has often come into question.

While Xunzi's doctrines were influential in forming the official state doctrine of the Han Dynasty, during the Tang Dynasty his influence waned compared to that of Mencius.2

The later Qin conqured the entire China and the king of Qin literally terminated Mohists. So to me there could have been something between Confucinist Xunzi and Mohists. ( Though it is my assumption )

For further information sake : Confucianism is mainly focusing on the family ethic ( here I mean, Lord-subordinate ethic, + Father-son ethic, etc etc ) and the music at that time played a great role for the ritual in a dynasty, thus in my assumption, the ideas of Confucianism fitted with feudal system more than that of Mohism.

For example, Confucius's Analects Of Confucius


Confucius says


The Master said: “After Music Master Zhi took over, the finale of the Guanju was magnificent. How it filled my ears!”

Music played an important role in the rituals at that time.

So my finall assumtion is while Mohism was quite ( or too much ) unique and fitting with war time, as well as deviating from the others, on the other hand Confucianism fitted with the feudal era family lord-subordinate system ( but not limited to it ). So Confucianism survived ( although we must suspect the relationship between Xunzhi and mohists ), and the Mohism went extinct.

This includes my opnions to some extent, though I don't think it is not so much off the point, I guess.

  • Thanks for the detailed descriptions. They helped me alot (though since I am not East Asian, I couldn't understand the chinese script).
    – Cicero
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 23:09
  • Thank you. I would like to brush up furthermore so that you can read in English as much as possible. ( I personally recommend you to read the book as much well translated as you can since personally thinking reading Chinese books in English or Chinese or Japanese etc have very different impression ). Thank you anyway.
    – user13955
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 9:17
  • Keelan, thank you for your editing. Since I am also interested in Mohism's extinction, I tried to update further relating with Xunzi ( the most critical to Mohism ) but please wait. Anyway, thank you. These people seem to me to be peculiar or outsiders even to the other thinkers at the same age, as for now. Anyway, thank you for your effort.
    – user13955
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 11:30

I personally think That the key is People.

people who believed Confucius, got work form the government. Confucius's idea of learning is :If you have studied, apply it to the work.when you can't do your work well,then study more. were his student could better apply the study than Government?so his students joins the government. and he showed a way to the student how to success.

on the other hand,Mozi believe Thrifty,anti war, logic, math, and self farming. so his student learned a lot. but they have no key position inside the government.(you don't see the scientist become the Prime minister,or Governor, they don't have time for that. ) because the idea is so different, when Confucianism have all the power and Mohism had no power, the destiny is set. only how much time they got left.

is not about one idea is right the other is wrong. they both got some idea right and some idea wrong. the real question is ,why they can't learn agree to disagree?

  • First off, welcome to philosophy.SE. This might be true now, but historically Confucianism was originally suppressed in the Qin dynasty (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qin_dynasty). So the question might be better understood as asking why Confucianism (or at least a species of it) ended up being integrated into the government rather than retrospectively saying what happened after this.
    – virmaior
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 23:31
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    I can not agree with you, sorry, virmaior. As you can read Japanese, kindly check this work. link. You can see on page 16, he proposes the development of the appearance of the mixed ideas including Confuciuanists, Taoists, as a reference to the establishment of laws into which the first emperor Shi Huangdi put his effort exclusively ( for his dynasty's sake. ). And actually the disciple of Xunzhi 李斯 served for Qin's dynasty. It seems not so much simple as commonly thought.
    – user13955
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 3:25
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    And we should be aware Qin's dynasty only lasted for 40 years. This time span can be almost ignorable considering the then Chinese practice to overvalue its military size, about what a person did, and how great an emperor was etc etc. Romance of story of the three kingdoms link, which is an unofficial version about the history of the three kingdoms boasts 1million soldiers were employed by Cao Cao at the battle of Red Cliff.
    – user13955
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 3:39
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    This number is too overemphasized when considering the population of entire China around AD 200 is estimated to have been from 10million to 60millon. link
    – user13955
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 3:41
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    Kindly be reminded the 李斯 is Li Si, who I quoted and answered as Of his disciples, the most notable are Li Si (prime minister to the first Qin emperor). So it is hard to guess Qin dynasty "oppressed" so hard on Confucianism.
    – user13955
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 3:56

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