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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yi-Fu Tuan was a Chinese-born American geographer best remembered for his association with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he served as an emeritus professor. One of the most prominent originators of humanistic geography, Yi-Fu Tuan received several prestigious awards, such as the Vautrin Lud Prize and the Cullum Geographical Medal.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chinese Communist leader Chen Jianxiang, better known as Chen Boda, was one of the most prominent figures of modern China, back in his time. A journalist and a professor, he also wrote several articles using pseudonyms. He was eventually jailed following the Cultural Revolution but released due to ill health.