Famous Chinese Intellectuals & Academics

Find out more about the greatest Chinese Intellectuals & Academics, including Mao Zedong, Confucius, Deng Xiaoping, Laozi and Tu Youyou.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Confucius

Famous As: Renowned Chinese teacher, politician, and philosopher
Birthdate: September 28, 0551
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Qufu
Died: 0479 BC

Confucius was a Chinese philosopher whose philosophy came to be known as Confucianism. Confucianism is often credited with shaping Chinese communities and East Asian societies. Confucius is considered one of the most influential individuals in the history of mankind as his teachings have had a great impact on people around the world. His philosophy continues to remain influential.

 2 Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu
Famous As: Ancient Military General, Strategist & Philosopher
Birthdate: 0544 BC
Died: 0496 BC
Sun Tzu was a Chinese general from the Eastern Zhou period. He is known to have written The Art of War, which propagated various alternatives to battles, such as alliances and use of spies, to win wars. He is said to be the same as Sun Wu and Sun Bin.

 3 Lao Tzu (Laozi)

Lao Tzu (Laozi)
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 0601 BC
Birthplace: Henan
Died: 0531 BC
Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, or Laozi, who is said to have lived in 6th-century BC by some and in the 4th-century BC by others, wrote the Tao Te Ching. He founded Taoism and is a legendary figure or deity. The Tang Dynasty emperors claimed he had founded their lineage.
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 4 Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo
Famous As: Chinese Human Rights Activist
Birthdate: December 28, 1955
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Changchun, China
Died: July 13, 2017

Liu Xiaobo was a Chinese activist, literary critic, and philosopher. He is best remembered for organizing campaigns that aimed at ending the one-party rule in China. He was honored with the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle for human rights in China. Liu is the first Chinese citizen to be honored with a Nobel Prize while residing in China.

 5 Budai

Famous As: Buddhist monk
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: China

Legendary 10th-century Chinese monk Budai, is better known as The Laughing Buddha and The Fat Buddha. Named after the “budai” or cloth sack that he carried with him, he was considered an avatar of Maitreya, or the future Buddha. His figures adorn many homes, as a symbol of prosperity and contentment.

 6 Tu Youyou

Tu Youyou
Famous As: chemist, pharmacologist, inventor, university teacher
Birthdate: December 30, 1930
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ningbo

Chinese phytochemist and malariologist Tu Youyou is best remembered for her Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the anti-malarial drug qinghaosu, or artemisinin. She is the first Chinese female Nobel laureate. A tuberculosis infection in her younger days had inspired her to step into medicine. She later studied traditional Chinese medicine, too.

 7 Sima Qian

Sima Qian
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: 0145 BC
Birthplace: Hejin, Yuncheng, China
Died: 0086 AD

The first noted Chinese historian, Sima Qian is best remembered for authoring the history of China titled Shiji. The son of Sima Tan, a court historian of the Han dynasty, Qian traveled widely and was also responsible for modifying the Chinese calendar. He was later castrated for defaming Emperor Wu.

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 8 Deng Xiaoping

Deng Xiaoping
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: August 22, 1904
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Guang'an, China
Died: February 19, 1997
Deng Xiaoping led the People's Republic of China from 1978 to 1989. He ordered a crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protestors in 1989, leading to the June Fourth Massacre. However, he also earned the tag of the "Architect of Modern China" for ushering in a market economy in the country.

 9 Mozi

Birthdate: 0000 BC
Birthplace: Tenzhou

Fifth-century BC Chinese philosopher Mozi was the founder of the Mohism school of philosophy. He propagated universal and undifferentiated love, or jianai. Though originally a believer of Confucianism, he later drifted away from it owing to its ritualistic and elitist nature, and formed his own movement, which was more people-oriented.

 10 Mencius

Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 0372 BC
Birthplace: Zoucheng, China
Died: 0289 BC

Mencius was a Chinese philosopher who idolized Confucius’ philosophy. Often referred to as the second Sage, after Confucius himself, Mencius is credited with further developing Confucius' ideology. Mencius is also credited with teaching many students, some of whom went on to become influential philosophers in their own right. Mencius is regarded as one of the most influential persons in history.

 11 Zhou Youguang

Zhou Youguang
Famous As: Chinese economist and linguist
Birthdate: January 13, 1906
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Changzhou, Jiangsu, Qing dynasty Qing Empire
Died: January 14, 2017

Best remembered for creating a new writing system that allows Mandarin to be written in Roman alphabets, Chinese economist Zhou Youguang started working on the project in 1955, reaching his goal after three years of labor. Known as Father of Pinyin, he has also authored forty books, most notable among them being The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts.

 12 Wen Jiabao

Wen Jiabao
Famous As: Politician, Geologist, Economist
Birthdate: September 15, 1942
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Tianjin

Wen Jiabao is a retired Chinese politician who served as the country's head of government from 2003 to 2013. As Premier, Wen Jiabao played a major role in directing Beijing's economic policy. Nicknamed the people's premier, Wen worked towards bettering the lives of migrant workers and farmers rather than focusing on GDP growth in rich coastal areas and large cities.  

 13 Zhuang Zhou

Zhuang Zhou
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 0369 BC
Birthplace: Mengcheng County, Bozhou, China
Died: 0286 BC

Known as the author of the Zhuangzi, one of the seminal texts of Daoism, or Taoism, Zhuang Zhou, or Master Zhuang, was a 4th-century BC Chinese philosopher. He was said to be eccentric and unkempt, though his works inspired Chinese Buddhism and Chinese art to a great extent.

 14 Milarepa

Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: 1052 AD
Birthplace: Tibet
Died: 1135 AD

Legendary Tibetan Buddhist master Milarepa perhaps earned his name, meaning “cotton-clad,” from the thin white cotton clothing he wore. The Mad Yogin of Tsang described him as someone who destroyed his uncle for betraying him and his family, and then attained a spiritual awakening as a disciple of Marpa.

 15 Su Shi

Su Shi
Famous As: Poet, Writer, Painter
Birthdate: January 8, 1037
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Meishan
Died: August 24, 1101

Su Shi was a Chinese writer, calligrapher, poet, painter, gastronome, pharmacologist, and politician who lived during the Song dynasty. He played a major role in the political affairs of the Song dynasty. He is credited with producing some of the best-known poems, prose, and essays and is considered one of the most decorated personalities in classical Chinese literature.

 16 Wang Mang

Wang Mang
Famous As: Emperor
Birthdate: 0045 BC
Birthplace: Wei Commandery
Died: October 6, 0023

Known as Shehuangdi, or The Usurper Emperor, 1st-century Chinese monarch Wang Mang was initially a Han dynasty official. He seized the Chinese throne from the Liu family of the Han dynasty, to form his own short-lived reign, also known as the Xin dynasty. He was later overthrown.

 17 Li Si

Li Si
Famous As: philosopher
Birthdate: 0280 BC
Birthplace: Cai
Died: September 30, 0208

Third-century BC Chinese philosopher and statesman Li Si propagated the philosophy of Legalism. While serving as a minister under Shihuangdi of the Qin dynasty, the first sovereign ruler of China, he pushed for standardized writing and coinage systems. He was, however, criticized for burning books of Confucian history.

 18 Shang Yang

Shang Yang
Birthdate: 0000 AD

Fourth-century BC Chinese Legalist philosopher Shang Yang was largely responsible for the unification of the Chinese empire under the Qin dynasty. His policies as a statesman included compulsory military service and centralization of governors. He also encouraged people to spy on each other. He was brutally executed by Duke Xiao’s successor.

 19 Han Fei

Han Fei
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 0280 BC
Birthplace: Han, China
Died: 0233 BC

Chinese philosopher Han Fei is remembered for his iconic work Han Feizi, which is an ancient text containing Fei’s essays that reflect the Legalist tradition. It is believed he suffered from a speech defect, which encouraged him to write. King Zheng of Qin later adopted most of Fei’s philosophies.

 20 Lin Yutang

Lin Yutang
Famous As: Inventor, Linguist, Novelist
Birthdate: October 10, 1895
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Banzai, Fujian, Zhangzhou, China
Died: March 26, 1976

Son of a Christian minister, Lin Yutang was initially supposed to join the ministry but later rejected Christianity to become a professor. His works include several Chinese and English books, such as Moment in Peking. He also introduced the concept of satire magazines in China with Lunyu banyuekan.

 21 Ban Zhao

Ban Zhao
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: 0049 AD
Birthplace: Shaanxi, China
Died: 0120 AD

Ban Zhao was a Chinese historian, politician, and philosopher. Remembered for her immense contribution to the Book of Han, Ban Zhao was the first known female historian in the history of China. Widely regarded as China's most popular female scholar, Ban Zhao also had an interest in mathematics and astronomy. She also gained political influence by teaching Empress Deng Sui.

 22 Zhang Sanfeng

Zhang Sanfeng
Birthdate: 0000 AD

Better known as the founder of the Chinese martial art Taiji Quan, or Tai Chi, Zhang Sanfeng is part of Chinese folklore. He has been portrayed widely in Chinese art and media, including wuxia novels and series. The Chinese believe the legendary Taoist was immortal and had supernatural powers.

 23 Zhu Xi

Zhu Xi
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Youxi County

Song dynasty Chinese philosopher and historian Zhu Xi propagated a revival of Confucianism against the popular trends of Buddhism and Taoism. He had cleared the civil services at 18 and had started his career as a registrar. He is remembered for editing the civil service texts The Four Books.

 24 Huineng

Famous As: Religious leader
Birthdate: 0638 AD
Birthplace: Xinxing County, Yunfu, China
Died: 0713 AD

Legendary Chinese Zen Buddhism patriarch Huineng is regarded as the founder of the Southern School, which believes in sudden enlightenment, as opposed to the gradual enlightenment of the Northern School. Initially a firewood peddler, he later became a monk. His teachings are collected in the Platform Sutra.

 25 Chen Duxiu

Chen Duxiu
Famous As: Politician, Professor, Philosopher, Journalist
Birthdate: October 8, 1879
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Q9328148
Died: May 27, 1942

A co-founder and major leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Chen Duxiu is remembered for his association with the May Fourth Movement. Known as China’s Lenin among his followers, he also contributed to the revolution to overthrow the Qing government and promoted vernacular Chinese through the periodical New Youth.

 26 Shen Kuo

Shen Kuo
Famous As: physicist, cartographer, mathematician, astronomer, poet
Birthdate: 1031 AD
Birthplace: Hangzhou, China
Died: 1095 AD

Shen Kuo was an eleventh century Chinese statesman and polymath, best remembered for authoring Mengxi bitan. Initially employed with central government, he had a successful career before he was banished on false charges, a move that allowed him to produce several scholarly books on mathematics, music, astronomy, calendars, cartography, geology, optics and medicine, out of which many were later purged.

 27 Wang Yangming

Wang Yangming
Famous As: Calligrapher
Birthdate: October 26, 1472
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Yuyao, Zhejiang Province
Died: January 9, 1529

 28 Kang Youwei

Kang Youwei
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: March 19, 1858
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Nanhai District, Foshan, China
Died: March 31, 1927

Qing dynasty reformer Kang Youwei was associated with the Reform Movement of 1898. Though he initially admired Western civilization, opened schools, and even attempted to abolish foot-binding of women, he later became a staunch supporter of Confucianism and opposed blind westernization. He fled to Japan after the reform movement failed.

 29 Liang Qichao

Liang Qichao
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: February 23, 1873
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Xinhui, China
Died: January 19, 1929

Chinese scholar Liang Qichao had fled to Japan after the Hundred Days' Reform was halted. He returned to China after a 14-year exile, with the formation of the Republic of China. He later served as a professor. He is remembered for his Chinese translations of Western and Japanese books.

 30 Xun Kuang

Xun Kuang
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 0310 BC
Birthplace: Zhao, China
Died: 0235 BC

 31 Li Shizhen

Li Shizhen
Famous As: Chinese scholar
Birthdate: July 3, 1518
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: China
Died: 1593 AD

 32 Wang Chongyang

Wang Chongyang
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 11, 1113
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Xianyang, China
Died: January 22, 1170

Chinese philosopher and poet Wang Chongyang is remembered as one of the pioneers of the Quanzhen School. He finds mention in wuxia novels such as the Condor trilogy. A believer of Taoism, he had a group of seven disciples, who came to be known as the Seven Immortals.

 33 Han Yu

Han Yu
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: 0768 AD
Birthplace: Nanyang, China
Died: December 25, 0824

 34 Wang Anshi

Wang Anshi
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: December 8, 1021
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Linchuan, China
Died: May 21, 1086

Wang Anshi was a Chinese author and political reformer who implemented the New Laws. After clearing his civil services examination, he worked as an administrator for 2 decades. He later served as the Chancellor of Song Dynasty and initiated reforms against nepotism and private monopolies in the country.

 35 Toqto'a

Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: 1314 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: January 10, 1355

 36 Yi-Fu Tuan

Yi-Fu Tuan
Famous As: Geographer
Birthdate: December 5, 1930
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Tianjin, China

 37 Sima Guang

Sima Guang
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: November 17, 1019
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Guangshan, China
Died: October 11, 1086

Song dynasty scholar and historian Sima Guang is remembered for his iconic work Zizhi Tongjian, which is still considered one of the most detailed Chinese historical works. He studied Confucian classics and also wrote poetry. Legends state how he had saved a friend from drowning by breaking a water tank.

 38 Ge Hong

Ge Hong
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: 0283 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: 0343 AD

 39 Cai Yuanpei

Cai Yuanpei
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 11, 1868
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Shaoxing, China
Died: March 5, 1940

Cai Yuanpei was a Chinese politician and philosopher. He was also an influential educationalist and played a crucial role in China's modern education. Among his several contributions to education reform in China is his work in the Peking University, where he served as the president. He is also credited with founding Academia Sinica, the national academy of Taiwan.

 40 Dong Zhongshu

Dong Zhongshu
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 0179 AD
Birthplace: Hengshui, China
Died: 0104 AD

 41 Zhao Mengfu

Zhao Mengfu
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: October 20, 1254
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Huzhou, China
Died: July 30, 1322

 42 Yang Zhu

Yang Zhu
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 0440 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: 0360 AD

 43 Ouyang Xiu

Ouyang Xiu
Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: August 1, 1007
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Sichuan, China
Died: September 22, 1072

 44 Ian Barbour

Ian Barbour
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: October 5, 1923
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Beijing, China
Died: December 24, 2013

 45 Fan Zhongyan

Fan Zhongyan
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 5, 0989
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Xuzhou, China
Died: June 19, 1052

Song dynasty scholar Fan Zhongyan rose up to be the kingdom’s chancellor and fought against corruption. He is known for his iconic saying “Be the first to care for the nation’s fate and the last to enjoy its comforts.” Though he owned a profitable farm, he spent a lot on charity.

 46 Guo Moruo

Guo Moruo
Famous As: Archaeologist
Birthdate: November 16, 1892
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Leshan, China
Died: June 12, 1978

Chinese archaeologist and scholar Guo Moruo left his Chinese wife and moved to Japan, where he studied medicine and met his second wife. Noted for works such as Nü shen, he was targeted during the Cultural Revolution and said his works should be burned for failing to understand Mao.

 47 Fei Xiaotong

Fei Xiaotong
Famous As: Anthropologist
Birthdate: November 2, 1910
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Wujiang District, Suzhou, China
Died: April 24, 2005

 48 Chen Boda

Chen Boda
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: July 29, 1904
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Hui’an, China
Died: September 20, 1989

 49 Zengzi

Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 0505 AD
Birthplace: Lu, China
Died: 0435 AD

 50 Zhou Dunyi

Zhou Dunyi
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1017 AD
Birthplace: Hunan, China
Died: 1073 AD