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  • Chinese/Japanese: 牟子 (Móuzǐ / Boushi)

Móuzǐ, or Master Móu, was a late second century Chinese thinker, one of the first and one of the most prominent to write on Buddhism. In his text, the Lǐhuòlùn (理惑論), often simply known as "the Mouzi," his disciples pose various questions challenging the adoption of Buddhism by good, upright, devotees of Confucianism & Taoism; in the text, these serve as straw man arguments, allowing Mouzi to explain how Buddhist beliefs and practices can be reconciled with Confucian and Taoist teachings.

In one section of the text, for example, the student asks, if Buddhism is such a great teaching, why is it not mentioned in the Classics? If the great paragons of virtue of the past, such as Yao the Great and Confucius, did not follow Buddhism, and if they are the paragons we are meant to strive to emulate, isn't following Buddhism going to lead us astray? And the Master responds that each of those great leaders of the past had teachers who they followed, and even though those teachers are not celebrated or much mentioned in the Classics, their teachings are still valuable and valid. Other sections of the text further support this concept by pointing out how the teachings of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism essentially align, expressing the same concepts, but just in different language.

Another critique of Buddhism during Mouzi's time was that it was a foreign philosophy; people asked, why should Chinese adopt barbarian customs? Mouzi's response is to cite Confucius' own consideration of spending living among the nine barbarian tribes, as well as suggesting that China is not alone in being Under Heaven, or, south of the Polestar. Finally, as echoed in other parts of the text, Mouzi says, simply, "gold and jade do not harm each other, crystal and amber do not cheapen each other,"[1] thus implying his belief that Confucianism and Taoism will not be cheapened or weakened by the adoption of Buddhism as well.

Some portions of the text bring up questions and issues which would resurface throughout Chinese history. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, for example, even after Buddhism had been thoroughly enmeshed in Chinese culture for more than a thousand years, there was still, in various ways, considerable suspicion of Buddhism. Two of the chief reasons cited at that time appear in the Mouzi as well. Namely, first, that contrary to the Confucian need to have children who can perform the proper filial ancestral worship rituals for their parents, Buddhist monks and nun have no children. In a sense, they are therefore betraying their parents and ancestors, by not providing grandchildren and further descendants, who will continue the line and continue to burn incense for the ancestors of that lineage. Second, that Confucianism teaches that one's body is a gift from one's parents, and that proper filial piety means not damaging or altering that body; the Buddhist custom of shaving the head (taking the tonsure, to enter the monastic lifestyle) runs counter to this. Mouzi explains away these concerns by citing examples of figures who behaved differently and who were nevertheless praised by Confucius himself for their upright behavior. However, Buddhist monks would remain an object of suspicion for much of Chinese history, existing as they did outside of family lineages, extended family groups, and by virtue of living at a monastery or wandering, lived too outside of village communities.


  • "The Introduction of Buddhism," Sources of Chinese Tradition, 421-432.
  1. Sources of Chinese Tradition, 425.
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