Provisional Abstract

After gaining victory over Shang dynasty (end of the second millennium BCE) the Zhou dynasty established a governance in which music has an important place, in view of the description made in the 周礼 Zhouli Rites of Zhou (strength, instruments, roles and variations according to the kind of ceremony). Such a function of rites and music is pregnant during the first part of the first millennium BCE and appears also in the 诗经 Shijing Book of Odes. In the second part of this millennium, in particular during the Warring States period (475-221 BCE), various written texts focus on various aspects: the regulation by power and virtues of music in the Confucian canons (especially the 乐記 Yueji Book of music in the 礼记 Liji Book of rites), the cosmogony in which music is involved in works by scholars and literati (呂氏春秋 Lüshi chunqiu Springs and Autumns by 呂不韋 Lü Buwei then 淮南子 Huainanzi by 刘安 Liu An, Prince of Huainan), some nostalgic evocations by poets in a hostile political context (楚辞 Chuci Songs of Chu), and a philosophical approach (from various school of thinking). Such texts recount, on the one hand, regulation by rites and music of the Zhou tradition and the reverence towards the mythical kings who were in harmony with Heaven and Nature, and, on the other, the dysharmonies resulting from the loss by the Zhou dynasty of its power and the fragmentation of its empire into warring states. The aim of this contribution is to point out the signs, perceptible in these texts, of a change seen as a fall into decay: the transition between an ancient music linked to virtue and a new music linked to pleasure.