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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.