Musical sounds, or simply music, are artistically rhythmical sounds flowing forth from one’s stirring emotions. Ancient Chinese often made a distinction between musical sounds and plain sounds. Sounds created by a natural environment are plain sounds, while those created when emotions well up in one’s heart is music. A single sound is called sheng (声), different sounds that come together are called yin (音); when these sounds beautifully fit together, they are called music (yue 乐). Ancient Chinese believed that musical sounds derive from one’s inner motions, and that the music of a country or a region reflects the popular sentiments and the social mores there. Hence Confucian scholars believed that art and literature demonstrate both virtues and flaws in a country’s governance and therefore play the role of moral education.
All music comes from one’s heart and soul. When emotions stir in one’s heart, it will find expression through a proper combination of sounds. A tune consisting of various rhythmical sounds is called music. (The Book of Rites)
Music is a particular kind of sounds. What flows forth from the heart in a rhythmical pattern is music. (Xu Shen: Explanation of Script and Elucidation of Characters)