Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and the world’s richest man, tweeted a 1,800-year-old Chinese poem comparing the killing of a sibling to boiling beans from the same root, spurring conversations among netizens on Twitter trying to decipher what the tech billionaire is trying to say. Musk, who also founded SpaceX , appeared to address the post to “humankind” before copying the text to the poem known as The Quatrain of Seven Steps . The poem, known for being about a fratricidal struggle in an imperial court, seems to have little relevance to Musk, who is worth more than US$300 billion and not involved in any life-or-death struggles. Seven Steps is widely known in China and included in the classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms . It is said to have been written by poet Cao Zhi in the early 3rd century under a dictate from his brother and emperor Cao Pi, who thought his sibling was trying to usurp his throne and demanded a poem proving his innocence. Super-frugal Chinese influencer sparks debate over her extreme lifestyle Under the threat of death, Cao Zhi was forced to come up with a poem within seven strides. He used boiling beans in a pot using dried beanstalks as a metaphor, with no direct reference to “brotherhood”. Musk posted a shorter version of the poem, which translated reads: Beanstalks are ignited to boil beans The beans in the pot cry out We are born of the same root Why should we incinerate each other with such impatience? One remote link to Musk is that the entrepreneur was recently called out by United Nations World Food Programme director David Beasley, who said rich people like the Tesla executive and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos should donate a fraction of their wealth to help fight starvation. Musk responded by saying he would sell Tesla stock and donate US$6 billion to the World Food Programme if it could detail “exactly” how it would solve world hunger. Some Twitter users believed the poem to be a reference to cryptocurrency because of similar-sounding words. The word for beans in Chinese, pronounced “dou”, sounds like “doge” in English, these users argued. Musk has been bullish on dogecoin on Twitter. Most recently, he jokingly posted last week that he would open a new university to be paid for using the meme-based cryptocurrency. The price of the cryptocurrency shot up from US$0.25 to US$0.30 hours after his proposal, before slipping back to US$0.27 on Tuesday. Tesla shows support for China’s new data rules after PR headache In a broad sense, Musk could also be expressing sorrow about human infighting in general. In 2000, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin used the final question in Seven Steps to reference relations with Taiwan. If the self-ruled island declared formal independence, Jiang said, “why should we incinerate each other with such impatience?” Public figures in China often cite ancient poems to express certain feelings when direct statements might be inappropriate. But that approach resulted in trouble for Wang Xing, the billionaire founder of on-demand delivery giant Meituan , in May when he cited a 1,000-year-old poem criticising book burning by China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang. Some read the blog post as a criticism of the current government and the company’s regulatory troubles, leading to a massive sell-off of Meituan shares in Hong Kong. Wang said later that the poem was about business strategy. He then hid all his social media posts from public view. While popular in China, it is rare for Western public figures to directly cite ancient Chinese literature. Musk has deep business interests in the country, though, having received approval for a Tesla factory in Shanghai, which started rolling out new Model 3s at the end of 2019. More recently, Musk was forced to respond to concerns that Tesla vehicles posed a national security risk, with the executive denying the company is spying on users . The carmaker also opened a Shanghai data centre to comply with strict new regulations this year that further restricts cross-border data flows . In September, Musk made a video appearance at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, in eastern Zhejiang province, where he pledged to support China’s digital economy. Tesla already hosts all Chinese user data locally, he said, and is anticipating the economic transformation from self-driving cars.