Famous Chinese Philosophers

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Find out more about the greatest Chinese Philosophers, including Mao Zedong, Confucius, Deng Xiaoping, Laozi and Sun Tzu.
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 1 
Confucius
(Chinese Philosopher and Political Theorist)
Confucius
21
Birthdate: 0551 AD
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
8
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)
(Ancient Chinese Philosopher and Writer)
Lao Tzu (Laozi)
9
Birthdate: 0571 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.
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 4 
Liu Xiaobo
(Chinese Human Rights Activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)
Liu Xiaobo
5
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 
Deng Xiaoping
(Politician)
Deng Xiaoping
18
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.
 6 
Budai
(Buddhist monk)
Budai
6
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.

 7 
Mencius
(Chinese Confucian Philosopher)
Mencius
3
Birthdate: 0372 AD
Birthplace: Zoucheng, China
Died: 0289 AD

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.

 8 
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.

 9 
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
 10 
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.

 11 
Zhuang Zhou
(Chinese Philosopher)
Zhuang Zhou
5
Birthdate: 0369 AD
Birthplace: Shangqiu, Henan province, China
Died: 0286 AD

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.

 12 
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

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.

 14 
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.

 15 
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.

 16 
Zhu Xi
3
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.

 17 
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.

 18 
Kang Youwei
(Chinese Philosopher and Political Thinker in the Late Qing Dynasty)
Kang Youwei
2
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.

 19 
Han Fei
(Chinese Philosopher and Essayist)
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.

 20 
Wang Yangming
(Calligrapher)
Wang Yangming
3
Birthdate: October 26, 1472
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Yuyao, Zhejiang Province
Died: January 9, 1529
 21 
Xun Kuang
(Philosopher)
Xun Kuang
2
Birthdate: 0310 BC
Birthplace: Zhao, China
Died: 0235 BC
Zhang Sanfeng
3

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 
Ban Zhao
(Chinese Historian, Philosopher, and Politician)
Ban Zhao
2
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.

 24 
Wang Chongyang
(Philosopher)
Wang Chongyang
2
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.

 25 
Wang Anshi
(Chinese Economist, Philosopher, Poet, and Politician During the 'Song Dynasty')
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.

 26 
Ge Hong
(Scholar)
Ge Hong
2
Birthdate: 0283 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: 0343 AD
 27 
Cai Yuanpei
(Chinese Philosopher and Politician Who Was an Influential Figure in the History of Chinese Modern Education)
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.

 28 
Dong Zhongshu
(Philosopher)
Dong Zhongshu
2
Birthdate: 0179 AD
Birthplace: Hengshui, China
Died: 0104 AD
 29 
Yang Zhu
(Philosopher)
Yang Zhu
2
Birthdate: 0440 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: 0360 AD
 30 
Fan Zhongyan
(Chinese Poet, Politician, Philosopher and Writer Known for His CI Poetry)
Fan Zhongyan
1
Birthdate: September 5, 0989
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Suzhou, 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.

 31 
Zengzi
(Philosopher)
Zengzi
1
Birthdate: 0505 AD
Birthplace: Lu, China
Died: 0435 AD
 32 
Zhou Dunyi
(Philosopher)
Zhou Dunyi
1
Birthdate: 1017 AD
Birthplace: Hunan, China
Died: 1073 AD
 33 
Guo Xiang
(Chinese philosopher)
Guo Xiang
1
Birthdate: 0252 AD
Birthplace: Luoyang, China
Died: 0312 AD
 34 
Wang Chong
(Meteorologist)
Wang Chong
1
Birthdate: 0027 AD
Birthplace: Shangyu District, Shaoxing, China
Died: 0100 AD
 35 
Feng Youlan
(Philosopher)
Feng Youlan
1
Birthdate: December 4, 1895
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Tanghe County, Nanyang, China
Died: November 26, 1990
 36 
Zou Yan
(Philosopher)
Zou Yan
4
Birthdate: 0305 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: 0240 AD
 37 
Ji Kang
(Writer)
Ji Kang
1
Birthdate: 0223 AD
Birthplace: Suixi County, Anhui, Huaibei, China
Died: 0262 AD
 38 
Zisi
(Philosopher)
Zisi
1
Birthdate: 0483 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: 0402 AD
 39 
Gongsun Long
(Philosopher)
Gongsun Long
1
Birthdate: 0325 AD
Birthplace: Zhao, China
Died: 0250 AD
 40 
Cheng Yi
(Philosopher)
Cheng Yi
1
Birthdate: 1033 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: 1107 AD
 41 
Hui Shi
(Philosopher)
Hui Shi
1
Birthdate: 0370 AD
Birthplace: Mount Song, Zhengzhou, China
Died: 0310 AD
 42 
Huang Zongxi
(Naturalist)
Huang Zongxi
1
Birthdate: September 24, 1610
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Yuyao, China
Died: August 12, 1695
 43 
Wang Fuzhi
(Essayist)
Wang Fuzhi
1
Birthdate: October 7, 1619
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hengyang, China
Died: February 18, 1692
 44 
Wang Bi
(Philosopher)
Wang Bi
1
Birthdate: 0226 AD
Birthplace: Jining, Ulanqab, China
Died: 0249 AD
 45 
Shao Yong
(Philosopher)
Shao Yong
1
Birthdate: January 20, 1012
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: China
Died: July 27, 1077
 46 
Zhang Zai
(Chinese Philosopher and Politician Known for Laying Out Four Ontological Goals for Intellectuals)
Zhang Zai
1
Birthdate: 1020 AD
Birthplace: Chang’an, China
Died: 1077 AD
Song dynasty philosopher Zhang Zai was highly inspired by Confucian classics in his childhood. He had also initially studied Buddhism and Daoism, but ended up returning to explore Confucianism. His iconic work Zhengmeng spoke at length about “qi,” or “vital breath,” and “ren,” or “humaneness.” 
 47 
He Yan
(Official)
He Yan
1
Birthdate: 0195 AD
Birthplace: Nanyang, China
Died: February 9, 0249
 48 
Liang Shuming
(Chinese Philosopher, Politician and Writer)
Liang Shuming
1
Birthdate: October 18, 1893
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Beijing, China
Died: June 23, 1988

Neo-Confucian philosopher Liang Shuming is remembered for his association with peasant organization and was a major figure behind the formation of the China Democratic League. He was also the first professor of Buddhism to be employed by a Chinese university and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

 49 
Yang Xiong
1
Birthdate: 0053 AD
Birthplace: Chengdu, China
Died: 0018 AD

Han dynasty poet and philosopher Yang Xiong is remembered for popularizing the fu form of poetry. His philosophical works, such as Fayan and Taixuanjing, showcase his interest in Confucianism and Daoism. Wang Mang spared his life during the siege of Chang’an, as Yang wasn’t interested in politics.

 50 
Lie Yukou
(Author)
Lie Yukou
1
Birthdate: 0450 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: 0375 AD