(Asa no naka no yomogi; “Mugwort amongst hemp”)
If you spend time with good people you’ll be influenced and inspired by them, and become a better person yourself. This is the positive-oriented counterpart to last week’s 朱に交われば赤くなる. The Asian mugwort plant is twisty and bushy, while hemp plants grow straight and tall, and apparently growing among the latter helps the former to do so as well.
This noun phrase begins with the noun 麻 (asa), “hemp (plant),” joined by the associative particle の (no) to the noun 中 (naka), “middle.” This compound in turn is joined by another の to the noun 蓬 (yomogi), “mugwort.”
The first two nouns may be compounded into 麻中 (machuu); alternately, the verb つるる (tsuru, “to stand in a row with,” in prenominal form) may be changed in to get 麻につるる蓬 (asa ni tsururu yomogi).
This saying comes to us from the writings of our friend Xunzi / Xun Kuang.
(“Jibun mo asa no naka no yomogi ni narou to omotte, ii tomodachi wo sagasou to kesshin shita.”)
[“I felt that I should also try to better myself through association, so I decided to look for good friends.”]