The boy from Hu village

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互鄉難與言,童子見,門人惑。子曰:「與其進也,不與其退也,唯何甚?人潔己以進,與其潔也,不保其往也。」
The people of Hu Village were difficult to talk with, so when a boy from there came to visit Confucius his disciples didn’t know what to think. Confucius said: “Just because I am allowing him to enter doesn’t mean that I approve of what he does after he leaves. Why be so choosy? If someone purifies himself to enter, I accept his purification; but I make no guarantees of how he will behave after he leaves.”

Although the location of Hu Village is no longer known, its inhabitants were – at least according to the compilers of the Analects – an ornery lot that didn’t have much truck with outsiders. No wonder then that Confucius’s disciples didn’t know what to make of it when he met with a boy from the village.

No wonder, too, that the sage used the boy’s visit to remind his disciples that they should be open-minded enough to talk to anyone who had made the effort to come and listen to them. No matter what mistakes people have made in the past or what social background they come from, there is always the chance to help them if they show a willingness to improve – even if they happen to an ignorant young bumpkin from a remote backward village.

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