Mozi Bei Ge (Mozi Bei Si)
 T of C 
Qin as
Qin in
/ Song
Analysis History Ideo-
Personal email me search me
ZCZZ   ToC   /   Matteo Ricci lyrics Listen to my recording 聽錄音   /   首頁
Mozi 1 Sings with Feeling
Also called Mozi Laments Silk3
Shang mode:4 1 2 4 5 6 1 2
墨子悲歌 2
Mozi Bei Ge; Mozi Bei Si
Mozi examining silk? 5
Mozi, original name Mo Di, is said probably to have lived in the mid 4th century BCE, that is, some time after Confucius but before Mencius.6 There are stories associating him with both what are today Shandong and Henan provinces, but in fact there are virtually no reliable biographical details on Mozi.

In spite of what is written in this melody's preface, the book of Mozi is rather unsympathetic towards music.7 Mozi's philosophy, called Mohism, has been summarized as "utility, uniformity and universal love".8 It apparently developed as a direct reaction against the teachings of Confucius.9 In the 4th century BCE, when Mencius outlined what he called the philosophy of Confucius, he suggested that Mohism was one of its most dangerous rivals.10 Others have suggested that the two philosophies actually have much in common, as can be seen from the Han Yu essay mentioned below.

The attribution of the melody to Mozi himself has no historical basis. There is also no information to support the possibility that this earliest known version was based on an earlier melody.11 But although Mozi Bei Ge is not one of the earliest listed or surviving qin melodies, after 1600 it did quickly became one of the most commonly published, appearing in at least 32 handbooks from 1609 to 1914.12 There is quite a bit of variety within the first several versions. There are at least three modern silk-string qin recordings;13 a comparative analysis shows some differences between these, but they all follow the version published in 1722; the 1722 tablature in turn has many differences from the 1609 version, mostly in elaboration, but it still follows general outline of 1609 most of the way through.

The story connected to this melody can be found in Chapter Three in Mozi, On Dyeing.14 The chapter begins with Mozi sighing as he observes that silk takes on the color of the dye applied to it, commenting that people similarly take on the attributes of those with whom they associate. The chapter then goes on to mention a number of famous people influenced by their associates. Many of these people lived after the dates assigned to Mozi himself.

The specific connection of this story, and hence this melody, to Mozi is thus somewhat puzzling. People who attribute this chapter to Mozi himself are perhaps referring only to the beginning of the chapter. But if the sudden popularity of this melody at the end of the Ming dynasty suggests an increased interest in Mohist philosophy, this is not one of the principles for which Mohism is most famous. On the other hand, the popularity of this story is attested by its inclusion in Liexian Quanzhuan, the expanded 17th century version of Liexian Zhuan from which the illustration above was taken.

The version of this melody published in 1625 has 12 sections, with lyrics throughout. The text of the first chapter of Mozi provides the lyrics for the first nine sections of the song. The lyrics of the final three sections are the words of an essay by Han Yu called On Reading Mozi. The essay tries to reconcile Mohist and Confucian philosophies.15

The author of the 1625 handbook writes that he himself paired the lyrics to Mozi Bei Ge because he couldn't find any lyrics already attached to it. Because of this my current assumption is that his version of the melody was much modified to accommodate the lyrics. However, to my knowledge no one has yet studied this.16

Original Preface17
(tentative translation)

Regarding this melody, it is by Mo Di, who lived at the time of King Hui of Liang. The sage was out traveling when he saw some plain silk. This so moved him that he said, "Ordinary people are tinged in the same way as sages (emperors?)."18 It is customs and activities that influence them, in the same way that oil affects the way noodles collect (in a bowl). For example, silk by nature is basically clear; if you dye it, then it becomes yellow or black, but it is not completely different from what it originally was. Thus Yao was "dyed" (influenced) by Xu You and became a sagely gentleman; Zhou (Xin) was influenced by Chong Hou (Marquis Hu of Chong) and became a stupid king; so with regard to influencing, one must be very cautious. By correctly distinguishing musical tones a gentleman can use music to understand his purposes;19 and by having similar feelings in response to Mozi's lament, think about what would allow a person to become pure and unsullied. If this is not possible, would it not be better just to listen to the rhythms?  
13 Sections; no subtitles or lyrics
Below "First Section" are the words "Revised by qin friend Gao Longbo of Jianye"21
Timings follow my recording 聽錄音 (adapt for Matteo Ricci songs?)

00.00     1. (harmonics)
00.41     2.
01.41     3.
02.21     4.
03.05     5.
03.43     6.
04.17     7.
04.57     8.
05.30     9.
06.10   10.
07.11   11. (harmonics)
07.36   12.
08.25   13.
09.08         closing harmonics
09.31         melody ends

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Mozi 墨子 (China Text Project)
Most of our information about Mozi comes from his famous book, today called simply "Mozi". The complete annotated English translation by Ian Johnston, published in 2010 (details), outlines on p.xviii ff what little is known of Mozi's life. It is generally agreed that he was from 魯 Lu, but there are three places that claim to be this Lu. Johnston concludes that the best evidence says Mozi was from the same state of Lu as was Confucius, around Qufu in what is today Shandong province. Johnston adds that claims from the other two places, one in 宋 Song and the other 魯陽 Luyang in 楚 Chu, are quite flimsy. (I am not quite sure how to align this with what I have written below.)

Although Mozi is usually said to have been from 魯 Lu, and his birthplace is sometimes specified as having been 曲阜 Qufu in Lu (hometown of Confucius), today it is most commonly said to have been 滕州 Tengzhou, now in western Shandong but at that time part of the kingdom of 宋 Song, which bordered the state of 魯 Lu to its east. The capital city of Song is said to have been near the modern 商丘 Shangqiu in eastern Henan province, not far from Tengzhou (between these two, and a bit south, is 蕭 Xiao, mentioned in the dialect discussion below?). A third place suggested is further west, in Luyang or Lushan (47030.132 魯陽 Luyang says it was a 郡 district of 魯山縣 Lushan County; on modern maps Lushan can be found west of 平頂山 Pingdingshan, a city south of the 嵩山 Songshan mountain range in central Henan province).

The biography of Mozi in the Shi Ji (which calls him 墨翟 Mo Di) is very brief. In Chapter 74, Mengzi (Mencius, see GSR VII/185), it says he was probably a 大夫 high official in Song, was skilled at defense and at being frugal, and lived either in the time of Confucius or somewhat later. 5615.151 墨翟 Mo Di (5615.3 墨子 Mozi mostly concerns the book), says he was a man of 魯 Lu who was born during the time of 周定王 King Ding of Zhou, dying over the age of 80 at the end of the reign of 安王 King An. He offered his services to various countries, becoming a minister in Song. He advocated 兼愛 "universal love", meaning that people should treat everyone equally, without giving preference to rulers and relatives, as in the Confucian system. The book Mengzi (縢文公下 Teng Wen Gong, Part 2, #9) criticizes him for this. It is said that Mozi successfully defended Song from an attack by the much larger state of 楚 Chu.

In sum, although no personal information about Mozi is certain, it seems to be agreed that he apparently was active in the mid 5th century BCE. This, however, seems to conflict with the preface to the present melody, which has him active during the time of 梁惠王 King Hui of Liang (i.e., 魏 Wei), who reigned 370 - 335 (see GSR, VII/23).

As for the claims for Mozi's place of origin being the "western Lu" (Luyang), it is interesting to explore such arguments, especially when these places have built memorials. This seems to be the case with the argument that the 魯 Lu of Mozi was actually the "western Lu", i.e., 魯陽 Luyang or 魯山 Lushan in Henan province. There are a number of references to Mozi having been a friend of 魯陽文君 Lord Wen of Luyang. It has also been argued that the language of the book attributed to Mozi "proves" he was actually from that area (see, for example, this pdf entitled, 墨子里籍東、西魯說論爭--兼評蕭魯陽「西魯說」引證之方言材料 The Debate over Mozi's Hometown: "Eastern Lu” or "Western Lu" and Xiao Luyang's Use of Dialect as Evidence, by 陳彥君 Chen Yanjun). An online article is 李玉凱:墨子里籍東、西魯論爭-瞥-讀蕭魯陽方言研究力作 Li Yukai: "The debate over Mozi's home town: 'Eastern Lu' or 'Western Lu' - Reading the Masterpiece of Dialect Research by Xiao Luyang" (this assumes "瞥" was a misprint). There was also a recent DVD about Mozi that promotes Luyang as Mozi's home town; it says he grew up near Luyang among ordinary farmers after his father had been punished by the court (墨 Mo is not a normal family name, instead apparently suggesting his family may have been slaves or prisoners). The DVD (again my original source for this is also now no longer online) shows a small temple built there in honor of Mozi (like this? See also this). The program also has elderly residents discussing Mozi's connection to Lushan, but it makes no attempt to determine the age or source of these claims. It suggests that "universal love" was part of his aim of getting people to work together.

There has been considerable writing about "universal love" in connection with Mozi's reputed actions to prevent war. This is discussed, for example, in online articles such as this one, written in connection with A Battle of Wits, the English title of a Japanese/Chinese film (Muk Gong in Cantonese; Mo Gong in Mandarin); the film tells a story of putting some of Mozi's principles into action.

2. 墨子悲歌 Mozi Bei Ge (Mozi Sings with "Bei";, but see next footnote)
The translation of the title is based on the understanding of 悲 bei as expressed in an article by Ronald Egan (see Controversy) showing that bei can refer not just to the common meaning of sadness, but to the emotion one is feeling when something is so beautiful it brings tears to the eyes. Thus the more common title of the melody, Mozi Bei Si, could be translated as "Mozi is emotionally moved by (comparing human nature to the nature of) silk." Two of the early examples Egan cites for this meaning are in a story about Shi Kuang (see a footnote) and in an essay by Ruan Ji. He also mentions (p.15) an essay by Xi Kang called "Music has no sorrow or joy".

On the other hand the bei in Song Yu Bei Qiu seems more clearly to reflect a sense of mourning.

3. 墨子悲絲 Mozi Bei Si
5615.8 says Mozi Bei Si is the same as .7 墨子悲染 Mozi Bei Ran (Mozi gets emotional about dyeing); there is a reference to Chapter 3 of Mozi, 所染 Suo Ran (see also below). The entry .7 墨子泣絲 Mozi Qi Si (Mozi Weeps over Silk) has basically the same story, but refers to 淮南子 Huainanzi (說林順 Chapter 17? Haixiao edition, p. ??) and 風俗通 Feng Su Tong. Another reference, 22397.90 Dang Ran 當染 (On the Proper Kind of Dyeing), says indicates only that this is the title of a chapter in 呂氏春秋 Lüshi Chunqiu, but that chapter has the same story has here; see Knoblock and Riegel, The Annals of Lü Buwei, p. 87. The only mention of the word 悲 bei is in a quote from Yanshi Jia Xun (not in that quote); none of the entries discusses music. (Return)

4. For more on 商調 shang mode see Shenpin Shang Yi. (Return)

5. Image from an illustrated Liexian Quanzhuan, an expanded Ming edition of Liexian Zhuan. (Return)

6. King Hui of Liang 梁惠王
Although the preface to the melody specifically mentions the time of King Hui of Liang, also called 魏惠王 King Hui of Wei (r. 370 - 335; see CK), Mozi's connection to King Hui is uncertain. For further biographical information on Mozi see above. (Return)

7. Mozi on music
Mozi's 非樂 Condemnation of Music is Books 8 and 9 of the Book of Mozi (CTP). A references to the qin can be found at the beginning of part 1, as follow,

(Mei translation) So the reason why Mozi condemns music is not because that the sounds of the big bell, the sounding drum, the qin and the she and the yu and the sheng are not pleasant, that the carvings and ornaments are not delightful, that the fried and the broiled meats of the grass-fed and the grain-fed animals are not gratifying, or that the high towers, grand arbours, and quiet villas are not comfortable. Although the body knows they are comfortable, the mouth knows they are gratifying, the eyes know they are delightful, and the ears know they are pleasing, yet they are found not to be in accordance with the deeds of the sage-kings of antiquity and not to contribute to the benefits of the people at present. And so Mozi proclaims: To have music is wrong.

8. Mohism
The quote is from DeBary and Bloom, Sources of Chinese Tradition, Volume One, p. 64ff. For an online outline of Mohism see the Mozi page of Chad Hansen. See also comments here and here under Music from the Time of Matteo Ricci concerning claimed similarities between Mohism and Christianity. (Return)

9. Huainanzi on Mohism
淮南子,要略 Huainanzi, Yao Lue, 25 (translation Donald Sturgeon) has the following:

"Mozi studied the teachings of Confucianism and learned its methods, but found the rites repetitious and convoluted, believing that elaborate funerals wasted funds and impoverished the people, and that extended mourning of the dead harmed the living and interrupted the business of state. He therefore advocated the abandonment of the Zhou system of governance in favour of that of the Xia."

10. Mengzi on Mohism
In 孟子 Mengzi, 縢文公下 Teng Wen Gong, Part 2, #14, Mengzi (Mencius) suggests that the leading philosopies of his day were the universal love of Mozi and the hedonism of Yang Zhu

11. Source of Mozi Bei Ge
As of yet I haven't heard of any other early melodies on the theme of Mozi in any genre.

12. Tracing Mozi Bei Ge
Zha Guide, 29/228/-- (i.e., no lyrics, but see 1625), lists this title (together with 墨子悲絲 Mozi Bei Si) in 32 handbooks from 1609 (it is not in the 1589 edition) to 1914; Mozi Bei Si became the more common title in the later handbooks. The first thirteen surviving occurrences are in:

  1. 1609 (QQJC VII/175); it is #4 (39 overall) in Boya Xinfa; see also #4 in the outline to the QQJC edition
     shang mode; 13 sections; discussed in detail above
  2. 1611 (VII/406); grouped with shangjue mode; 10
  3. 1623 (VIII/370); shang mode; preface; 14
  4. 1625 (IX/149); only version with lyrics; shang mode; preface says it "resembles Mu Ge"; 12
  5. 1634 (IX/304); shang sound; 11; preface: "....徐門正音...."
  6. 1647 (X/86); this version is most comparable to 1609; shang sound; 13; repeated in:
  7. 1692 (Facsimile); a copy of 1647
  8. 1660 (XI/19); 14 + coda
  9. 1663 (XI/123); 11
  10. 1691 (XII/498); 18
  11. 1702 (XIII/216); 14
  12. 1705 (XIII/342); 18; afterword ("胡遠山曰:高中鏗鏘,幽中淒婉,此墨子為商音之楷模也....")
  13. 1722 (XV/437); 13; preface similar to 1523; afterword; most modern interpretations say they are based on this tablature

None of the surviving versions has section subtitles. Because the 1625 handbook (see above) was found only after Zha had compiled his Guide, the Guide does not include that version's lyrics or preface. From 1623 the melody is almost always called Mozi Bei Si, but here the preface says this is the same as Mozi Bei Ge, as well as that the melody resembles that of Song of the Herdsman (牧歌 Mu Ge; could also be translated as Song of the Shepherd). Mozi Bei Ge does seem to have borrowed a number of passages from Mu Ge. There is some related comment in connection with the 1812 Mu Ge, and then more on the possible relation between the two under Music from the Time of Matteo Ricci, both here and in the appendix.

13. Silk-string recordings of Mozi Bei Si
The three recordings, all based on Wuzhizhai Qinpu (1722) are as follows:

  1. 徐元白 Xu Yuanbai (14.00), in The Qin Repertoire of Xu Yuanbai & Huang Xuehui
     Guqin Quji, Vol. I, pp. 216 - 224, has a transcription of Xu Yuanbai playing this; indicated timing: 12.15.
  2. 吳景略 Wu Jinglue (8.26 [compare above!]), in The Qin Repertoire of Wu Jinglue
     This recording has a passage (7.39 to 7.59) not in 1722; it is also not in 1868 (II/#5).
     The passage is similar to the comparable place in 1609, but there is no indication of its actual source.
  3. 劉少椿 Liu Shaochun (9.47), in The Qin Repertoire of Liu Shaochun
     Adds the same passage as in the Wu Jinglue version. The program notes accompanying this CD include the following comment:

    (This version) "was personally passed on through 孫紹陶 Sun Shaotao (1879 - 1949) of the Guangling Qin School....The chanting style and the rhythmc characteristics contained in the music were unique in expressing the feelings of Mozi....To perform it perfectly (, said) the author of (the Wuzhizhai Qinpu), "I began to practice this piece during my childhood but couldn't fully express its inner meaning through all these years. It wasn't until recent days when I exerted every effort to figure out its secrets that I felt somehow I could perfectly perform it'...."

Although (with the exception of the added short passage mentioned above) all three recordings clearly follow Wuzhizhai Qinpu, the interpretations are all quite different, as indicated by the above timings.

14. Mozi, Chapter 3: On Dyeing (所染 Suo Ran
11999.35 identifies this as a chapter of Mozi (see also above), but first makes reference to 張喬,寄山僧詩 a poem about a monk of Jishan, by Zhang Qiao (9th c.; he also wrote a poem called Listening to a qin). (Return)

15. Lyrics for the Mozi Bei Si published in Taiyin Xisheng (1625; IX/149ff)
The lyrics for the first nine verses are largely quoted directly from Mozi, Book One, Chapter III, 所染 Suo Ran (On Dyeing). W.P. Mei's 1929 translation is online on websites of Simon Fraser University and Donald Sturgeon; see also Johnston, p.14ff. Lyrics for Sections 10 - 12 are Han Yu's commentary called On Reading Mozi, which tries to reconcile Mohist and Confucian philosophies. There is also an online translation by B. W. Van Norden of this latter text (.pdf format; also copied here).

The lyrics as applied to the 12 sections of the 1625 Mozi Bei Ge are as follows:

  1. 子墨子言,見染素絲者而歎曰:『染於蒼則蒼,染於黃則黃。所染者變,其色亦變。五入必而已,則為五色矣。
  2. 所染不可不慎也。』非獨染絲然也,國亦有染。舜染於許由、伯陽,禹染於皋陶、伯益,湯染於伊尹、仲虺,武王染於太公望、周公旦,此四王者所染當,故王天下,立為天子,功名蔽天地,舉天下之仁義顯人,必稱此四王者,(而能王天下也)。
  3. 夏桀染於干辛、推哆;殷紂染於崇侯、惡來;厲王染於厲公長父、榮夷終;幽王染於傅公夷、蔡公穀。此四王者所染不當,故國殘身死,為天下僇,舉天下之不義辱人,必稱此四王者。(致使國殘身死,而為天下之僇也。)
  4. 齊桓公染於管仲、鮑叔;晉文公染於咎犯、郤偃;荊莊王染於孫叔敖、沈尹蒸;吳王闔廬染於伍員、文之儀;越王句踐染於范蠡、大夫種。此五君者所染當,故霸諸侯,功名傳於後世,(而霸諸王也)。
  5. 范吉射染於張柳朔、王生;中行寅染於黃藉秦、高彊;吳王夫差染於王孫雄、太宰嚭;智伯瑤染於智國、張武;中山尚染於魏義、椻長;宋康王染於唐鞅、田不禋。此六君者所染不當,故國皆殘亡,身為刑戮。
  6. (及)宗廟破滅,絕無後類,君臣離散,民人流亡,舉天下之貪暴可擾者,必稱此六君者。
  7. 凡君之所以安者何也?以其行理也,行理性於染當。故善為君者,勞於論人,而佚於治官。不能為君者,傷形費神,愁心勞意,然國愈危,身愈辱。此六君者,非不重其國、愛其身也,以不知要古也。不知要者,所染不當也。
  8. 非獨國有染也,士亦有染,其友皆好仁義,淳謹畏令,則家日益,身日安,名日榮,處官得其理矣。則端干木、禽子、傅說之徒是也。
  9. 其友皆好矜奮,創作比周,則家日損,身日危,名日辱,處官失其理矣,則子西易牙豎刁之徒是也。詩曰﹕「必擇所堪。」必謹所堪者,此之謂也。
  10. 儒譏墨以「上同」、「兼愛」、「(上)賢」、「明鬼」,而孔子「畏大人」,居是邦不非其大(人)。《春秋》譏專臣,不「上同」哉?
  11. 孔子「汎愛」、「親仁」,以「博施」、「濟眾」為聖;不「兼愛」哉?孔子「賢賢」,以四科進褒弟子,疾「沒世而名不稱」,不「上賢」哉?孔子「祭如在」,譏祭如不祭者,曰﹕“我祭則受福”;不「明鬼」哉?儒、墨同是堯、舜同,非桀、紂同。修身、齊家以治天下、國家。奚不相悅如是哉?
  12. 余以為辨生於末學,各售其師之說;非二師之道本然也。孔子必用墨子。墨子必用孔子。不相用不足為孔墨。

Zha Fuxi apparently had no access to the 1625 handbook and so it did not index it or include its lyrics.

16. The lyrics are paired by a version of the formula always used for pre-modern qin songs, with one character for each right hand stroke. This does not allow for much flexibility in adapting a pre-existing melody to text. See more on this under qin songs. (Return)

17. Original preface
The commentary here in 1609 alludes to the chapter of Mozi but does not quote it directly. The original Chinese (see QQJC VII/175) is as follows:


At least 14 of the other 32 versions have commentary.

The second existing handbook with a preface to this piece is the third handbook, dated 1623; the same details are basically recounted again in several of the later handbooks, including 1722, 1751 and 1868. The 1623 preface is as follows,


The 1625 preface instead goes into the background of its version, saying it was 增 augmented by Li Shuinan of Hangzhou. The full 1625 preface is as follows (not in Guide; see QQJC IX/153),


The 1722 afterword (QQJC XIV/437; omitted from Zha Guide) also goes into musical details,


No translation.

18. Note on punctuation
I have found no punctuated version of this preface, so it is not completely clear to me where this quote ends. Here I interpret the quote as one phrase only, "人湛然同於聖體。" I have found this phrase online in some Buddhist websites, where Mozi is quoted as saying, "人湛然同於聖體,為居惡俗。" (i.e., the second phrase is "為居惡俗" instead of "為習俗所移。" See, e.g., CBETA and Buddhist Canon.) I haven't been able to work out their source, either. "湛 zhan" is said here to have the same meaning as the "堪 kan" in the poem at the end of the Mozi quote (identified as from the Shi Jing, but it is not in the surviving volume; see lyrics, Section 8), and to mean something like "tinged". As for 聖體 shengti, see 8/677: 舊稱皇帝身體,亦借指皇帝 i.e., the emperor (also, "eucharist"!). (Return)

19. This is a particularly interesting comment, considering Mozi's supposed condemnation of music in general. (Return)

20. Melody
As discussed above, only the version published in 1625 has lyrics. For the tablature itself, see also Some notes on the tablature

21. "建業琴友高(龍)伯校". Jianye is an old name for Jiankang, now a southern suburb of Nanjing.

Gao Longbo 高(龍)伯
The pronunciation "Long" in Gao Longbo is a guess: the character is not in my dictionaries. In both editions it is written like 龍 long (dragon), but with the left side replaced by 帝 di (emperor). 59812.178 龍伯 longbo says "古大人國之人 a person from an ancient country of giants" (Graham, Liezi, p.97: kingdom of the Dragon Earl). I have also not found the name Gao Longbo in my encyclopaedias. I assume "revised" here means changing existing tablature so that it conforms with the way the music is actually being played. This handbook has several melodies as "revised" by various people (no person more than once: see ToC). Elsewhere some melodies say they have been "tablatured" (譜 pu) by such and such a person. Perhaps this means writing down how someone played the melody.

Return to the Zhenchuan Zhengzong Qinpu intro, to the annotated handbook list or to the Guqin ToC.