Elon Musk is known for setting the internet ablaze with his cryptic tweets. Now he’s doing it in another language.
The Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX CEO tweeted an ancient Chinese poem Monday night. It’s not clear what reference Musk intended, but the tweet, which was titled “Humankind,” included a composition known as the “Quatrain of Seven Steps.” The poem is famous in China, and refers to a spat between brothers.
It is often attributed to Cao Zhi, son of an ancient Chinese warlord, who was said to live during the Three Kingdoms era (220 to 280 AD). Legend has it that Cao’s elder brother, a newly crowned king, was jealous of Cao’s talent. Suspecting that his brother was trying to usurp his rule, the king then forced him to write a poem within the amount of time it took to walk just seven steps.
The rhyme translates into English as follows:
“Beanstalks are burned to cook beans
The beans weep in the pot
We grow from the same root
Why should we boil each other with such impatience?”
Tesla and SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk’s post generated significant attention on both Western and Chinese social media. It was a trending topic on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, on Tuesday.
Musk’s charm offensive in China
Musk has long shown an affinity for Chinese culture, praising the country’s efficiency and investing heavily to turn it into one of Tesla’s biggest markets.
In July, he applauded the government on an important anniversary for the ruling Chinese Communist Party, tweeting: “The economic prosperity that China has achieved is truly amazing, especially in infrastructure! I encourage people to visit and see for themselves.”
That came months after the world’s richest man appeared for a rare interview with a Chinese state broadcaster, heaping praise on Beijing and saying that China would “become the biggest economy in the world.” Musk has also predicted that the country will eventually become Tesla’s most important market.
But it hasn’t been an easy year for the electric carmaker there.
Tesla sales in China slumped this summer, according to an industry group. That’s led some critics to suggest its prospects are dimming in the world’s biggest car market.
In June, nearly all the vehicles that Tesla had built and sold in China since opening its Gigafactory in Shanghai were recalled over concerns about the cruise control system. The setback wasn’t as damaging as a conventional recall, since it didn’t require customers to return their cars.
But it added to a bout of bad publicity for the company, which was targeted in April by protesting Tesla owners at the country’s largest auto show. Chinese regulators have also questioned the quality of Tesla’s Shanghai-made Model 3s, and there have been reports of heightened scrutiny of the automaker from China’s military.