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.

Vote for Your Favourite Chinese Intellectuals & Academics

 1 
Confucius
(Philosopher)

Confucius
15
Birthdate: 0551 BC
Birthplace: Lu, Shandong, China
Died: April 11, 0479

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
(Chinese Military Strategist, Writer and Philosopher)

Sun Tzu
6
Birthdate: 0544 AD
Birthplace: Qi, China
Died: 0496 AD
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)
(Philosopher)

Lao Tzu (Laozi)
6
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Chu, China
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.
Recommended Lists:

 4 
Liu Xiaobo
(Chinese Human Rights Activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)

Liu Xiaobo
4
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
(Buddhist monk)

Budai
6
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 
Sima Qian
(Historian)

Sima Qian
3
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.

 7 
Tu Youyou
(chemist, pharmacologist, inventor, university teacher)

Tu Youyou
4
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.

You May Like

 8 
Zhou Youguang
(Chinese economist and linguist)

Zhou Youguang
4
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.

 9 
Mencius
(Philosopher)

Mencius
4
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.

 10 
Mozi
(Was a Chinese Philosopher)

Mozi
3
Birthdate: 0470 BC
Birthplace: Tengzhou, Shandong Province
Died: 0391 BC

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.

 11 
Deng Xiaoping
(Politician)

Deng Xiaoping
19
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.

 12 
Wen Jiabao
(Politician, Geologist, Economist)

Wen Jiabao
4
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
(Philosopher)

Zhuang Zhou
6
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 
Run Run Shaw
(Former Philanthropist, Entrepreneur, Filmmaker who founded the Shaw Brothers Studio)

Run Run Shaw
3
Birthdate: November 23, 1907
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ningbo, China
Died: January 7, 2014

 15 
Milarepa
(Poet)

Milarepa
3
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.

 16 
Su Shi
(Poet, Writer, Painter)

Su Shi
3
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.

 17 
Wang Mang
(Emperor)

Wang Mang
3
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.

Shang Yang
3
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 
Li Si
(philosopher)

Li Si
3
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.

 20 
Lin Yutang
(One of the Most Well-Known Twentieth-Century Chinese Writers)

Lin Yutang
3
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
(Historian)

Ban Zhao
3
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.

Zhang Sanfeng
3
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
3
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
(Religious leader)

Huineng
3
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
(Politician, Professor, Philosopher, Journalist)

Chen Duxiu
3
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 
Liang Qichao
(Historian)

Liang Qichao
3
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.

 27 
Wang Yangming
(Calligrapher)

Wang Yangming
3
Birthdate: October 26, 1472
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Yuyao, Zhejiang Province
Died: January 9, 1529

 28 
Shen Kuo
(physicist, cartographer, mathematician, astronomer, poet)

Shen Kuo
3
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.

 29 
Kang Youwei
(Philosopher)

Kang Youwei
3
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.

 30 
Han Fei
(Philosopher)

Han Fei
3
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.

 31 
Xun Kuang
(Philosopher)

Xun Kuang
3
Birthdate: 0310 BC
Birthplace: Zhao, China
Died: 0235 BC

 32 
Li Shizhen
(Chinese scholar)

Li Shizhen
2
Birthdate: July 3, 1518
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: China
Died: 1593 AD

 33 
Han Yu
(Historian)

Han Yu
2
Birthdate: 0768 AD
Birthplace: Nanyang, China
Died: December 25, 0824

 34 
Wang Anshi
(Economist)

Wang Anshi
2
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
(Historian)

Toqto'a
2
Birthdate: 1314 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: January 10, 1355

 36 
Yi-Fu Tuan
(Geographer)

Yi-Fu Tuan
0
Birthdate: December 5, 1930
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Tianjin, China

 37 
Sima Guang
(Scholar)

Sima Guang
2
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
(Scholar)

Ge Hong
2
Birthdate: 0283 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: 0343 AD

 39 
Cai Yuanpei
(Philosopher)

Cai Yuanpei
2
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
(Philosopher)

Dong Zhongshu
2
Birthdate: 0179 AD
Birthplace: Hengshui, China
Died: 0104 AD

 41 
Zhao Mengfu
(Scholar)

Zhao Mengfu
2
Birthdate: October 20, 1254
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Huzhou, China
Died: July 30, 1322

 42 
Yang Zhu
(Philosopher)

Yang Zhu
2
Birthdate: 0440 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: 0360 AD

 43 
Ouyang Xiu
(Essayist)

Ouyang Xiu
2
Birthdate: August 1, 1007
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Sichuan, China
Died: September 22, 1072

 44 
Guo Moruo
(Archaeologist)

Guo Moruo
2
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.

 45 

Fan Zhongyan
2
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 
Ian Barbour
(Scholar)

Ian Barbour
2
Birthdate: October 5, 1923
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Beijing, China
Died: December 24, 2013

 47 
Chen Boda
(Chinese Communist Leader Known for His Involvement in the Cultural Revolution)

Chen Boda
2
Birthdate: July 29, 1904
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Hui’an, China
Died: September 20, 1989

 48 
Fei Xiaotong
(Anthropologist)

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

 49 
Zengzi
(Philosopher)

Zengzi
2
Birthdate: 0505 AD
Birthplace: Lu, China
Died: 0435 AD

 50 
Zhou Dunyi
(Philosopher)

Zhou Dunyi
2
Birthdate: 1017 AD
Birthplace: Hunan, China
Died: 1073 AD