Famous Chinese Spiritual & Religious Leaders

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 1 
Choekyi Gyaltsen, 10th Panchen Lama
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Birthdate: February 19, 1938
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Haidong, China
Died: January 28, 1989

Choekyi Gyaltsen, the 10th Panchen Lama, or reincarnate custodian of Buddhism, went down in history for his courage that made him send a petition criticizing China’s Tibet policy to the Chinese government. In response, he was arrested and imprisoned for 14 years for conspiracy against the government.

 2 
Bodhidharma
(Buddhist Monk)
Bodhidharma
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Birthdate: 0483 AD
Birthplace: India
Died: 0540 AD

Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who is believed to have started the physical training in China's Shaolin Temple and therefore is credited with the creation of Shaolin kungfu. Not a Chinese by birth, Bodhidharma is also believed to have transmitted Chan Buddhism to China. 

 3 
Ch'ang-ch'un
(Chinese monk)
Ch'ang-ch'un
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Birthdate: 1148 AD
Birthplace: Chi-hsia, China
Died: July 23, 1227

Taoist monk and alchemist Ch'ang-ch'un is remembered for his journey from China to Genghis Khan’s court near the Hindu Kush mountains. His journey remains documented in The Travels of an Alchemist, penned by his disciple Li Chih-Ch'ang, which also provides a detailed account of the history of erstwhile Mongol society.

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 4 
Wang Chongyang
(Philosopher)
Wang Chongyang
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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.

 5 
Zhang Daoling
(Religious leader)
Zhang Daoling
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Birthdate: 0034 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: 0156 AD

Founder of the Tianshidao movement of Daoism, also known as the Five Pecks of Rice movement, Chinese hermit Zhang Daoling propagated religious organization and believed physical immortality could be achieved. Some believe he died at age 123, while others believe he simply disappeared, leaving his clothes behind.

 6 
Ignatius Cardinal Kung
(Religious leader)
Ignatius Cardinal Kung
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Birthdate: August 2, 1901
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Shanghai, China
Died: March 12, 2000

Ignatius Cardinal Kung, the Catholic Bishop of Shanghai, spent 30 years imprisoned by Chinese authorities for opposing state control of religion. He was released only after international human rights and religious groups pressurized the government. He died of cancer while undergoing treatment in the U.S.

 7 
Yang Xiuqing
(Leader)
Yang Xiuqing
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Birthdate: September 23, 1821
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Guiping, China
Died: September 2, 1856

Chinese military leader Yang Xiuqing is remembered for leading the Taiping Rebellion. Initially a firewood dealer, he later joined the army of Taiping leader Hong Xiuquan. However, when he tried to usurp the powers of Hong, he was executed along with his family and followers.

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 8 
Akong Rinpoche
(Founder of the Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland)
Akong Rinpoche
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Birthdate: December 25, 1939
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kham
Died: October 8, 2013

Akong Rinpoche had escaped to India with his party of 300 men after his failed Tibetan revolt against the Chinese government, though the arduous journey claimed the lives of most of them, with only 13 arriving safely. Akong later propagated Tibetan Buddhism abroad but was eventually murdered in China.

 9 
Feng Yunshan
(Political leader)
Feng Yunshan
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Birthdate: 1815 AD
Birthplace: Hua County, Anyang, China
Died: June 10, 1852

Feng Yunshan had a major role to play in the Taiping Rebellion against the Qing regime. He led Hong Xiuquan’s God Worshipping Society and later became the South King of the Taiping Rebellion. He was fatally wounded by a Qing gunner, following which the Taiping invaded and ravaged Quanzhou.

 10 
Kou Qianzhi
(Religious leaders)
Kou Qianzhi
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Birthdate: 0365 AD
Birthplace: Shanxi, China
Died: 0448 AD

Taoist leader Kou Qianzhi was a significant figure behind the development of the Tianshidao movement. He earned the title of tianshi and later persecuted Buddhists, thus making Taoism the official religion of his land, though only for a while. He was said to have made Mount Huashan his meditation space.

 11 
Daosheng
(Buddhist scholar)
Daosheng
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Birthdate: 0360 AD
Birthplace: China
Died: 0434 AD
Daosheng was a Chinese Buddhist scholar best remembered for supporting and popularizing concepts, such as sudden enlightenment. His interpretation of the Nirvana Sutra had a great influence on Chinese Buddhism. It also laid the foundation for the Chan school of Mahayana Buddhism.
 12 
Guanxiu
(Painter)
Guanxiu
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Birthdate: 0832 AD
Birthplace: Lanxi, Jinhua, China
Died: 0912 AD
Guanxiu was a Buddhist monk, calligrapher, poet, and painter. He is best remembered for his depiction of the 18 arhats, which has become the definitive portraits for the 18 arhats in Buddhist iconography. Guanxiu is also renowned for his works in calligraphy and poetry.       
 13 
John Baptist Wu
(Cardinal)
John Baptist Wu
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Birthdate: May 26, 1925
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wuhua County, Meizhou, China
Died: September 23, 2002
John Baptist Wu was a Chinese man best remembered for serving as the first cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church of Hong Kong. He also served as the fifth Bishop of Hong Kong. He played a key role during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, working towards re-establishing peace, justice, and order in China. 
 14 
Lu Xiujing
(Daoist)
Lu Xiujing
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Birthdate: 0406 AD
Birthplace: Zhejiang, China
Died: 0477 AD
Lu Xiujing was a Chinese Taoist compiler and ritualist best remembered for compiling the first Taoist Canon. A hard-working and eloquent man, Lu played an important role in popularizing Taoism. He is also credited with popularizing the Lingbao school of thoughts. Lu Xiujing was revered by his followers and peers alike and was highly regarded during his lifetime.
 15 
Zhang Bairen
(Bishop)
Zhang Bairen
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Birthdate: February 14, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Zhangjiatai, China
Died: October 12, 2005

Zhang Bairen is a Chinese Bishop, although he wasn’t officially recognized as Bishop by the Chinese authorities. However, he was consecrated as a monsignor by Liu Hede in 1986 and thus came to be known as the unofficial Bishop of Hanyang. Bairen is remembered for spending 24 years in labor camps and prison because of his loyalty to the Pope.