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  • Mozi: A Study and Translation of the Ethical and Political Writings by John Knoblock and Jeffrey Riegel
  • Carine Defoort (bio)
John Knoblock and Jeffrey Riegel. Mozi: A Study and Translation of the Ethical and Political Writings. China Research Monograph 68. Berkeley: University of California, Institute of East Asian Studies, 2013. xvi, 501 pp. Softcover $40.00, isbn 978-1-55729-103-5.

Good news for the increasing number of scholars who are convinced that the Mozi is, as Jeffrey Riegel puts it, “an anthology of enormous scope and great importance,” containing “the earliest extended philosophical discourse in China on a remarkably varied set of topics” (p. ix). During the last few years, several English translations of the Mozi have seen the light: in 2010 the first complete Mozi translation by Ian Johnston came out, which is very useful for its comprehensiveness,1 after the partial translations of Mei Yi-pao (1929), Burton Watson (1963), and Angus Graham (1978).2 In the meanwhile, Jeffery Riegel had been working on a study and partial translation based of a draft manuscript that he discovered on the computer of his erstwhile friend and collaborator, John Knoblock (1938-1999). Riegel worked for more than a decade on the translation of the “ethical and political writings” parts of the Mozi, namely the seven opening chapters or syncretic writings (chapters 1-7, group 1), the core (or triad) chapters containing the Ten Doctrines (chapters 8-37, group 2), and the dialogues or Mohist Analects (chapters 46-50), which form group 3 together with “Condemn the Ru” (chapter 39). The translation does not contain the dialectical chapters (chapters 40-45) nor the defense chapters (chapters 52-71), two groups of writings that are extremely difficult to reconstruct and interpret because of their technical content and textual corruption. The result of Riegel’s work is a very thorough overview of Mozi research and a careful translation of no less than thirty-six of its chapters (seven opening chapters, the twenty-three preserved core chapters, “Fei ru,” and the five dialogue chapters).

The lengthy introduction contains a wealth of information on Mozi scholarship, such as the various portrayals of Mozi, the Mohist school, the book Mozi, the fate of Mohism after the Zhou dynasty, and finally a summary of the thought contained in the translated chapters. In this introduction Riegel offers a detailed overview of up-to-date research, without always taking a position. The portrayals of Mozi discuss Mo Di’s dates and birthplace, his relation to Confucius, his connection with Yu the Great of the Xia dynasty, and his portrayal as a magician. The last is related to Mozi’s afterlife as an immortal in later Daoist sources, but I am not convinced by Riegel that the book Mozi itself gives enough textual support for this portrayal (pp. 3–4).3 Under the heading of the Mohist school, the author briefly discusses the three branches of Mohism, the first-generation disciples, the Grand Master, and the Mohist community. He speculates that the “bie Mo” 別墨 mentioned in Zhuangzi “Tianxia” 天下 was not used by Mohists of the different branches to label each other as “deviating Mohists,” but was rather inspired by the general Mohist rejection of partiality; hence “partial Mohists” as opposed to the [End Page 335] universal or inclusive 兼 ones (pp. 8–9). As for the creation of the book Mozi, Riegel leaves space for a wide variety of possible scenarios, which is to be applauded considering our very limited knowledge concerning pre-Han texts, especially the Mozi.4 He points out that the book was composed by anonymous authors over a period of several centuries (from the late fifth until the late third century b.c.e.), and that “the seeds of the text’s philosophy, embedded in most of its chapters, are the teachings, slogans, and arguments of Mo Di, or Master Mo” (p. xi). Referring to Watanabe Takashi (1912–1977), Riegel identifies the triad chapters as the oldest part of the book—ranging from “Impartial Love, Upper” (Jian ai shang) to “Explaining Ghosts, Lower” (Ming gui xia)—followed by the seven syncretic chapters and the five Mohist dialogues, roughly dated around the third century...