Mengxi Bitan: (Part IV) The Dancing Corn Poppy

Tan Mengxi

PureInsight | February 10, 2003

[] It is often said that flowers are perceptive. What about grasses? Cleve Backster, an American scientist, discovered that the dragon pot plant had feelings just as humans do. More than a thousand years ago, Shen Kuo, a Chinese scientist, wrote a book titled Mengxi Bitan, which told a similar story of a corn poppy that could dance to music.

According to the story, there was a man named Sang Jingshu from Gaoyou (near today's Yangzhou city in China). He was gifted at recognizing all kinds of sounds and was particularly talented in music. He could even tell one's fortune through sounds.

Sang heard about the corn poppy, a grass that could dance to a particular piece of music, "The Music of the Corn Poppy." It only responded to this piece of music and showed no reaction when people played any other pieces of music to it.. Sang decided to try it out for himself. The corn poppy indeed danced only that piece of music and nothing else, just as the legend had said.

After intensive study, Sang found that the melody of "The Music of the Corn Poppy" belonged to the Wu School of music; therefore, Sang composed another song in the Wu style. When he played this song to the corn poppy, it again danced beautifully. Sang named this song "The Tune of the Corn Poppy." The melodies of the two songs were completely different. Although there was not a part alike in the two songs, the plant could dance to both songs. Sang Jingshu concluded that it was because the internal musical principles were the same in the two songs.

Shen Kuo (the author of Menxi Bitan) sang high praise for Sang's ability. He wrote, "It is so wonderful for someone to know music this well!" Later Sang passed an examination and became a Jinshi. He was finally promoted to a governor of a county. His song, "The Tune of the Corn Poppy," was popular in Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces, even though people did not know what constituted the Wu School of music.

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