Frenzied Interpretations After Musk Shares Ancient Poem

There was no real context to the quoting of the Quatrain of Seven Steps
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2021 11:37 AM CDT
Musk Shares Chinese Poem, Stumping Millions
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, center, poses with Tesla owners at a delivery ceremony for the first Tesla Model 3 cars made at Tesla's factory in Shanghai, on Jan. 7, 2020.   (Ding Ting/Xinhua via AP)

Talking heads are trying to figure out what the world's richest man meant in tweeting lines from an ancient Chinese poem on Tuesday. Elon Musk caused a stir—on Twitter, where the Tesla and SpaceX CEO counts 62 million followers, and on Chinese social media site Weibo, where he has another 1.9 million followers—when he wrote the English word "Humankind" followed by an abbreviated version of the Quatrain of Seven Steps in Chinese characters. The highly allegorical poem, widely known in China, centers around a spat between two royal brothers and serves as a lesson on the importance of getting along, per Reuters.

The lines Musk tweeted translate to "Beans asimmer on a beanstalk flame / From inside the pot expressed their ire: / 'Alive we sprouted on a single root / What's your rush to cook us on the fire?'" per the Washington Post. Discussions on the post were viewed more than 100 million times on Weibo, where some saw a link to Musk's recent tussle with David Beasley, head of the UN's World Food Program, who encouraged him to donate $6 billion to efforts to address world hunger, per Reuters. Musk had followed up the post on Weibo with another in which he reiterated that he would donate the money if the WFP could "accurately explain how more than $6 billion will solve the global famine problem."

Others thought Musk might have been referring to rival cryptocurrencies, Shiba Inu and Dogecoin. Musk has backed Dogecoin, named after a meme of a Shiba Inu dog called Doge, though the newer cryptocurrency Shiba Inu, named after the dog breed, has recently overtaken Dogecoin in market value, leading to tensions between proponents of each, per Fortune. But as cryptocurrency trading is banned in China, CNN has a different take, seeing Musk's message as part of a "charm offensive in China." Both CNN and Reuters note Musk often praises the country on social media. He has said China will be become "the biggest economy in the world" as well as Tesla's most important market. The car maker operates a factory in Shanghai. (More Elon Musk stories.)

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