Ancient China in Context
The Mician Program for Ancient China
E Bruce Brooks and A Taeko Brooks
This book follows the Micians from their first appearance on the intellectual scene at the beginning of the 04th century to their apparent eclipse as an organized movement in the wake of the Chu conquest of Lu in 0249. The book makes sense of Mician doctrines as a natural growth in response to changing times and wider opportunities, and portrays Mician technical initiative not only in social engineering, but also in logic and the art of resisting war. Excerpts from the Mician writings are contexted by translations from contemporary schools of thought, some of them hostile, and some at least partly sympathetic, to the Mician program.
Mwo Di, the founder of the Mician movement, was of totally unknown but definitely sub-elite origin. He was active at the very end of the 05th and the beginning of the 04th century. His is the first (and indeed the only) voice to be heard in the policy debates of the 04th century that does not come from the elite stratum of Warring States society.
Mwodz ("Master Mwo") began as a critic of how the current military elite were handling the government. The elite liked war, simply because theirs was a culture of war, and he wanted peace because it was better for trade. For the first time in any tradition, Chinese or modern, Mwodz also went on to spell out what a culture of peace would look like as a positive thing. For starters, it would emphasize regard ("love") for all others equally, eliminating kinship-based distinctions. The Micians pioneered that ultimate lateral ethic, the Golden Rule, which later turns up in early Christianity, at the other end of the transAsiatic trade routes.
In contrast to the Confucians, who had inherited a vertical, one-way, duty-based ethic, Mwodz advocated a lateral ethic, with reciprocal relations, based ultimately on mutual advantage. It is essentially a trader's ethic, and it has been suggested that Mwodz came from the commercial sector of society, a sector which had scarcely existed before his time, but which in the early 04th century had begun to achieve its own distinct position in the scheme of things. Not only were Mician ideas carried elsewhere by trade, but they may well have grown out of the conditions of trade; that is, of mutually beneficial human interaction.
The ideals of the Micians did not entirely survive their eventual success in winning a place among the governing elite. They compromised on war (wars for a good purpose were allowed), they fell in line on subordination (the wishes of the superior, not the convictions of the inferior, would henceforth govern), and they got involved with Confucian style textualization: their expanding list of basic doctrines, which was on its way to eleven, was cut back to ten, for the sake of better cosmological symbolism.
To the governments of the time the Micians contributed several notable new tools. One was the art of city defense, which they developed (by taking over an earlier, independent firm of specialists): a type of warfare meant to stalemate the other type of warfare, of which at heart they still disapproved. They were trying to stop the unification process in its tracks, and make the multi-state system permanently viable. In this they failed, though their efforts may have delayed unification by as much as twenty years.
Extracts from Waging Peace:
- Chapter 1: The First Protest
- Chapter 2: The Developed Peace Plan
- Chapter 3: Questions of Authority
- Chapter 4: A Plea for the Gods
- Chapter 5: Entering Office
- Chapter 6: The Confucian Debates
- Chapter 7: The Fixing of Doctrine
- Chapter 8: The Final Years
The Mician movement is among the most interesting, and least predictable, features of the Chinese classical period. The Mician plan for a state without war goes farther in this direction than any ancient theorist, and many modern ones. Mician savagery in debate with rival schools is without equal save in the more sardonic parables of the Jwangdz. The Mician acceptance of war, and their continuing opposition to war not only in words but on the battlefield, present dilemmas which will be poignantly familiar to many in our own time. No account of ancient thought is complete without them, and any responsible critique of modern life could do worse than to take note of them. Chinese characters have been provided for the convenience of Sinological students.
For the military tradition as such, see Arts of War. For an overview of the entire classical period, which puts warfare and the antiwar movement in the larger context of state modernization, see the The Emergence of China.
E BRUCE BROOKS is Research Professor of Chinese, and A TAEKO BROOKS is Research Associate, at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Waging Peace: The Mician Program for Ancient China
Approximately 288 pages
Tentative $48.95 cloth. ISBN 978-936166-28-2
Tentative $25.95 paper. ISBN 978-93666-68-8
Tentative Release Date: August 2014
When announced, this book may be ordered from the University of Massachusetts Press
14 August 2010 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page