A list of famous Chinese men and women who have shaped China and the world.
Sun Tzu ( 544 BC – ) Chinese Military general and philosopher. He wrote “The Art of War” which is an influential guide to military strategy and the art of war. Sun Tzu suggested alternatives to open conflict and how to deal with a more powerful enemy – through cunning strategy and temporary delays.
Laozi (Lao Tsu) (c 571 BCE) Laozi was a Chinese poet and philosopher. He was the author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of philosophical Taoism.
Confucius (551 – 479 BC) Chinese philosopher, political writer, reformer and author of The Analects. Confucius was a conservative philosopher, stressing family loyalty, duty, the importance of family and tradition. He also emphasised the well-known maxim. “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.”
Mencius (372 – 289 BC) A Chinese sage who developed a tradition of Confucianism based around the belief that human nature was essentially good. He is considered the “second sage” of China and had an influence on the development and understanding of Confucian philosophy.
Shih Huang Ti (259 – 210 BC) – King of the state of Qin who conquered and united all the seven different regions of China in 221 BC. He became the first person to unify China. With ruthless efficiency, he standardised many practices, customs and rules throughout China, forging a new, unified nation.
Cai Lun (50–121 CE), Chinese inventor of paper. Cai Lun was a Chinese political administrator credited with inventing modern paper and inventing the paper-making process. His invention included the use of raw materials such as bark, hemp, silk and fishing net. The sheets of fibre were suspended in water before removing for drying.
Zhu Yuanzhang (Hongwu Emperor) (1328 –1398). Born into a poor peasant family, Zhu joined the rebellion against the Mongol, Yuan dynasty. He rose through the ranks of the military to successfully lead the Han Chinese in overthrowing the Mongols and establishing the Ming dynasty.
Empress Dowager Cixi (1835 – 1908) A concubine of Xianfeng Emperor – she gave birth to a son – Zaichun, and after the death of the Emperor, she became a powerful figure gaining political power – ‘ruling from behind the curtain’. She supported moderate reforms to the Chinese economy and state. After the failed Boxer rebellion, she became more open to reform and began a policy of changing China into a constitutional monarchy. After her death, the Qing dynasty soon ended.
Sun Yat Sen (1866 – 1925 ) The first provisional president of the Republic of China. Sen played a leading role in the overthrow of the Qing. He co-founded the co-founded the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party of China) and is considered the father of modern Chinese Republic. His political philosophy involved freedom from foreign intervention, ending imperialism (Qing dynasty) and ‘rights of the people’
Chiang Kai Shek (1887- 1975) Chiang Kai Shek was a military general and political leader of the Kuomintang after Sun Yat Sen. He served as president of the Republic of China from 1928 to 1971. However, after defeat to the Communist Party in 1949, he stayed in exile in Taiwan where he continued to lay claim to be the legitimate ruler of China. During the Second World War, he led Chinese nationalist forces against Imperial Japan.
Chairman Mao (1893 – 1976) Mao led the Chinese Communist party to power during the long march and fought against the nationalists. Mao ruled through the ‘cultural revolution’ until his death in 1976.
Deng Xiaoping (1904 – ) Xiaopeng was the most powerful political figure in China from 1978 to his death in 1997. Xiaoping successfully reformed the Chinese economy into a fast-growing market economy, which led to rapid growth in living standards. At the same time, he consolidated the political power of the Communist party and cracked down on political dissent.
Jiang Qing (1914-1991) Jiang Qing or Madame Mao, was the fourth wife of Chairman Mao and a leading figure in the Chinese Communist Revolution. She played a key role during the Cultural Revolution. She was one of the ‘Gang of Four’ who had the most influence on policy. But, after the death of Mao in 1976, she was arrested and imprisoned.
Xi Jinping (1953 – ) Chinese politician who serves as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (2012 – ) and who has served as President of China from (2013- ) Described as a Chinese nationalist – he has sought to crack down on corruption and increase internal censorship and monitoring of civil discourse. In 2018, Forbes made him the most influential person in the world.
Liu Xiaobo (1955 – 13 July 2017) Chinese writer, civil rights activist and philosopher. He has been a persistent critic of Chinese one-party rule and has campaigned for greater democracy and freedom of speech. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. He was arrested in 2009 for ‘inciting subversion of state power’ and died in prison in 2017.
Li Bingbing (1973 – ) is a Chinese actress and singer who rose to fame with her role in Seventeen Years and since then received critical acclaim for her roles in A World Without Thieves, Waiting Alone. She has also starred in Hollywood films.
Fan Bingbing (1981 – ) Chinese actress, model, television producer, and pop singer. She has starred in Chinese, Asian and American films. She is one of the highest paid celebrities in the world. In 2018, she was detained by the Chinese authorities for tax evasion.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Chinese People”, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net Published 27 October 2018. Last updated 2 July 2019.
Famous historical figures (throughout history) A list of the most famous figures throughout history. Includes, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Julius Caesar, Albert Einstein and Constantine the Great.
Famous Indians – A list of Indian men and women throughout the ages. Categories include politicians, scientists, sports people, spiritual figures and cultural figures. Includes Mahatma Gandhi, Akbar, Swami Vivekananda and Indira Gandhi.
Famous Irish people. Includes St Patrick, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Eamon de Valera, Mary Robinson and George Best.