China professor spots boy reading Murphy’s Law book on train, asks him to visit top university

China professor spots boy reading Murphy’s Law book on train, asks him to visit top university The studious boy was engrossed in the adult text when he was spotted by the professor. Photo: Douyin
  • Academic spots studious youngster, 7, with head in psychology book on subway, invites him to visit elite institution

A seven-year-old boy on a crowded train in China, who was reading about a subject considered far beyond his age group, was spotted by a professor from Peking University, who invited him to visit the institution.

Sitting on the floor, the boy, who has not been identified, was deeply engrossed in a book titled Murphy's Law, a psychological text famous for producing the saying, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong".

The book outlines a range of psychological and sociological principles.

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He caught the attention of another passenger, Zhao Baisheng, a professor and doctoral supervisor at Peking University's Institute of World Literature in the School of Foreign Languages.

Struck by the boy's concentration and what he was reading, Zhao initiated a conversation.

"What grade are you in, young boy?" Zhao asked.

"He is about to move from first to second grade," replied the boy's mother, who was standing nearby.

"That is impressive. I need to learn from you," Zhao said.

Zhao discussed educational subjects with the boy's mother and then invited them to visit Peking University.

"The little boy was thrilled to hear that my mentor is a Peking University professor," recalled a student who was with professor Zhao at the time, and who shared the story on Douyin.

Unfortunately, the boy's family was only visiting Beijing from their hometown in Hebei province, northern China, for four days, and did not have time to make a trip to the university.

"I hope my child will meet the professor through his own efforts," said the mother, who is encouraging her son to study hard so he can earn a place at Peking University.

The story resonated widely online.

"The child will surely be inspired and strive harder. A beam of light has shone on him, showing him the way," said one online observer.

"Such positive, intangible guidance has great power. Perhaps many years from now, the little boy will arrive at Peking University with his enrolment letter," another person said.

Others criticised the inaccurate reporting of some mainland media.

After the video was posted on Douyin, some media outlets said that a Peking University professor had "recruited a student" on the subway, sparking online controversy.

On July 3, Zhao clarified to the mainland news outlet Hongxing News that there was no "recruitment", emphasising that he was merely inspired by the child and wanted to encourage him.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2024. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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