This article offers a fresh perspective on the study of the eighteenth-century musical dialogue between China and France, not as an episode of exotic encounter but as an intellectual movement that profoundly shaped how scholars conceived of music and the study of its theories within an increasingly integrated world. Taking Jean-Philippe Rameau's and Jean-Jacques Rousseau's explorations into the origins of music as an example, I foreground the importance of Chinese music in the formation of their influential concepts of the corps sonore and of the unity of music and language respectively. While these two thinkers made two opposing claims about the origins of music, both used Chinese music as key evidence to support their arguments. Moreover, certain Jesuit missionaries, particularly Jean-Joseph-Marie Amiot, played a crucial role in the global transmission of musical knowledge that enabled French thinkers like Rameau and Rousseau to incorporate music beyond Western Europe. Ultimately, this article reverses the Eurocentric narrative that tends to trace the influence of ‘Western music’ on other parts of the world by showing how Chinese music exerted a major impact on musical debates in France. Situating the study of eighteenth-century music in a global context, I demonstrate what we commonly recognize as ‘Western music theory’ was shaped by knowledge from the East.