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The Role of Mohism in Kang Youwei’s Arguments for His New-Text Theory of Confucianism


The thought of Kang Youwei 康有為, who is revered as one of the most important Confucian politicians of modern China, has received considerable attention in recent decades. While many studies are devoted to Kang’s theory of Confucianism and his political visions underlying the theory, what is generally overlooked is that, to a large extent, his arguments are built upon his understanding of Mohism. This article argues that Kang Youwei employs the Mozi  墨子 and early narratives about Mozi and Mohism to support his claims that Kongzi 孔子 authored the New-Text versions of the Five Classics, that he was a reformer of political institutions, and that he was a religious leader. By shedding light on Kang Youwei’s discussions of Mohism, this article offers a reconstruction of his argument and an alternative perspective for investigating his New-Text interpretation of Confucianism.

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I am immensely indebted to Carine Defoort for her comments on various early versions of this essay and her support throughout the different stages of revision. I would also like to express my gratitude to Nicolas Standaert, Paul R. Goldin, and Wai-chun Leong for their generous intellectual contributions to this essay. I thank also the two anonymous reviewers for their incisive comments and useful suggestions. Any errors are my own and should not tarnish the professional advice and reputations of these esteemed scholars.

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Correspondence to Ting-mien Lee.

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Lee, Tm. The Role of Mohism in Kang Youwei’s Arguments for His New-Text Theory of Confucianism. Dao 19, 461–477 (2020).

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  • Confucianism
  • Mohism
  • Kang Youwei  康有為
  • New-Text Classicism
  • Five Classics