wánɡ ɡuó zhī yīn 亡国之音
Music of a Failing State
This term refers to the music of a state that is about to disintegrate. Later, it also refers to decadent and immoral music. The Confucian view was that music of a state on the verge of collapse tended to be dejected and demoralizing. As the downtrodden people endured immense suffering, their music and poetry were invariably full of sorrow and bitterness. If the ruler failed to wake up to the reality, the fall of his state was imminent.
The music of a state about to perish is filled with sadness, showing its people are in dire distress. (The Book of Rites)
The music of the states of Zheng and Wei was the music of an age of disorder, bordering on wantonness. The music of Sangjian on the Pushui River was typical of a failing state. The government was dysfunctional, the people were displaced, yet officials cheated on the ruler and pursued selfish gains with no one to stop them. (The Book of Rites)