Who Is the Most Famous Person in Chinese History?

Dear Jean,

I am taking an Asian history class and I have an interesting assignment ahead of me for the end of the semester. I am supposed to write a 10 page paper on who I think was the most famous person in Chinese history. While I can certainly pick someone myself, I am curious about what Chinese people think? Who do they think was the most famouos person in their history? And how about you?

Thanks so much,

Hannah in B.C.

Jean answers Hannah’s question

Dear Hannah,

Thank you for a very interesting question. Actually, I have asked this very same question in my ESL classrooms throughout China. As you might well expect, the most common and almost ‘automatic’ answer is Mao Zedong. This does not necessarily mean that students love Chairman Mao; they just happen to think that he is the most ‘well-known’ man in Chinese history because of his status as the founder of present day China.

The students who do not quickly shout out the name ‘Chairman Mao’ bring up other notable names in Chinese history such as the ancient philosopher Confucius and China’s beloved first premier, Zhou Enlai. A few students have even mentioned Deng Xiaoping as China’s most famous person since it was he who opened the doors and pushed China down its present path of development.

To answer your question clearly, it would seem that Chairman Mao is China’s most famous person according to the people with whom I have talked to here.

Oh, and you asked me who I thought was China’s most famous person? Since I tend to judge famous people based on their merits and not just on their notoriety, I would have to go with Deng Xiaoping. He is the leader who opened China up to the world and made it possible for teachers like me to come and have the adventure of a lifetime!

Hope that helps

Sincerely,

Jean

Ask Jean about China is a weekly feature on TeachAbroadChina.com. We welcome any questions related to living and working in China. Feel free to submit your questions by clicking here. We look forward to hearing from you.

20 Responses to Who Is the Most Famous Person in Chinese History?

  1. [...] answer is Mao Zedong. This does not necessarily mean that students love Chairman Mao. Continue readingJena Gutierrez 3 years ago. The most famous Chinese artist is named Xie He. He is most famous for [...]

  2. cnkid says:

    Here is a list of top 17 Chinese celecrities throughout history(basically known by everyone):

    1.Mao
    2.Zhu Ge Liang
    3.Guan Yu
    4.Qin Shi Huang
    5.Han Wu Di
    6.Cao Cao
    7.Tang Tai Zong/Li Shi Min
    8.Zhu Yuan Zhang
    9.Zhao Kuang Yin
    10.Sun Yat-sen
    11.Bruce Lee
    12.Jackie Chan
    13.Xiang Yu
    14.Liu Bang
    15.Zhou Enlai
    16.Deng Xiaoping
    17.Yue Fei

    [Reply]

    LeeZy Reply:

    For me the rank for these 17 Chinese are a bit messed. Some shouldn’t be because they never get to influence the China. As for my cousin in XiaMen and some in Wuhan or Xing Jiang, the rank will be doing fine with this.

    1. Mao (Military strategic leader)
    2. Qian Xue Shen (Father of Missle of USA and China)
    3. Deng Xiao Ping (First communist who thought like a Democratic)
    4. Ts’ai Lun (paper inventor)
    5. Confucius (Due to teaching and religion)
    6. Guan Yu (Due to teaching and religion)
    7. Sun Zhi (Due to the Art of war)
    8. Shi Huang Di (Gave the idea to Mao for reunite the whole China)
    9. Lu Bu Wei (Real Father of Qin, method of business even used in the present)
    10. Sun Wen (First to think of changing China)
    11. Zhen He (Brought more than 1 Million of Soldiers throughout Asia and doing business instead of war)

    If to call out present which will be in the future of the history.

    11. Hu JinTao/Wen JiaBao (Anti-War and business minded)

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  3. AMT says:

    The most famous Chinese would probably be Sun Yat-sen in my opinion. This article is a little biased because it comes from the People’s Republic of China’s view. Many Chinese/Taiwanese in the Republic of China (Taiwan) would probably say Chiang Kai-shek or Chiang Ching-Kuo, especially since he ended the marital law and introduced democracy into the ROC. Most of the children in the PRC grew up learning about the PRC’s founders: Mao Ze-dong, Deng Xiao-ping, etc., so when they come out into the international society, they seem to be brain-washed by the Chinese Communist Party. I hope I don’t offend anyone (I don’t mean to), but I just wanted to balance out the fact and provide both views of the so-called most famous “Chinese”.

    [Reply]

    LeeZy Reply:

    Sorry but to say, we are not brainwashed. We as well don’t really like PRC but do you think China will rise rapidly in the hand of ROC? Maybe for you to think of PRC is like other communist in North Korea or Vietnam or maybe the USSR soviet union but PRC never brain-wash any of us. We still read the history of how Sun Yat-sen fight the ManQing Dynasty. PRC still told us that one day of ROC in trouble, Chinese mainland will step in and hold their hand.

    Unlike how Japan brainwashed their citizens. Giving fake info about the murder of Nanjing. Changing history, saying that the Chinese started the fight.

    Read the history of Chinese, we had been bullied by the whole world for almost reaching a century. India took our land and claim on their own. USSR called out to launch their nuclear test on China. Japan killed and raped. All these history we have read are call brainwash? To balance out the fact, PRC never brainwash their citizen. ROC brainwashed Taiwan stated that PRC is bad. The whole world been brainwashed by USA stating that EVERY communists are bad.

    To be honest, we Chinese don’t like PRC for being a bully to their neighbor but the what brings PRC to do so? During the civilization of China, why the world never complain India for being a bully? Why no one cares when Japan for shouting at China? Why no one cares when USA blaming Chinese communist is bad? Why no one speaks when Indonesia, Ireland and Malaysia for Anti-Chinese? Do all these things called brainwashed by the media of USA?

    The history stated Mao was a killer. To think of this, during the civil war, what kind of leader can change the country without killing? Who can do that? Why do the whole world think Mao is a killer but not the Chinese? Is it because we been brainwash? or Is just because you guys don’t understand well?

    I can be honest with you. I am a Malaysian Chinese, I am not born in China and I know all these fact, do I get brainwashed too? From SOOO far away the Mainland. Malaysia’s medias are so free that we know every single bad things and bullshit about China and yet we still know what’s true and fake because we are not like easily brainwash by USA’s movies for stating the bad of communist.

    [Reply]

    LeeZy Reply:

    I am telling you this not because of anger but after reading your comment let me think that you are quite an understanding person. Unlike other people’s comment which actually jump down to the deepest point that won’t accept any of the fact.

    [Reply]

  4. Yong says:

    I am a Chinese but I believe Mao’s notoriety surmounts that of Stalin, albeit not necessarily that of Hitler. Mao’s doctrine brainwashed at least two generations of Chinese people, rendering many younger ones morally incapacitated. Yes he was the one who unified the great nation once again, yes without him, China may fall into the hands of Jiang Kai-shek who in turn may have sold the entire country out to the imperialists, blah blah blah… Try buy into all that. And many did.

    [Reply]

  5. J.macklby says:

    In 1936,the American journalist Edgar Snow was ‘handpicked’ by Mao to burnish his image in America, because Snow was already then a known Communist sympathiser, who could be relied on by Mao to brush off his blood-splattered past.
    Mao and the Chinese Politburo rolled out the Red Carpet for Snow, and carefully prepared scripted answers to a questionaire that Snow had to submit to them in advance, answers that contained valuable disinformation and falsehoods that Snow dutifully reported in his book ‘Red Star over China’.
    Thus, since Toadie Snow relied in such a very large way on interviews with Mao and other Communists to write RSOC, he can hardly be regarded as an impartial observer….Furthermore, at the time, the true extent of Mao’s Horror Show was yet to play out over the next 40 years.
    So when Mao, near the end of his own life, finally brought Deng Xiao Ping back out of the exile to which Mao had so cruelly banished him, it was because Mao had no other choice left. He simply was calling Deng to come and clean up the horrible, tragic, bloody and devastating mess of China that Mao himself had made.

    [Reply]

  6. kakert says:

    Pamela Anderson? My cousin? She’ll be so rapt you voted for her!

    [Reply]

  7. kakert says:

    Yeah Deng Xiao Ping..he is someone we should always revere..his handling of the UK iron ladt Thatcher with Hong Kong coming back to mainland China was priceless..& all else he achieved for the Chinese people. I have no squabbles over Mao’s greatness too..saved China from being carved up piece by piece like a giant whale by foreign powers , even with all their deceitful attemots.

    [Reply]

  8. kakert says:

    Kinda makes me feel like puking all the laowai here who know so little about this country & its history & famous people..all you know are the movie-stars & not even do you know the real side of these stars!Your ignorance makes me wonder about what you learn at school & what you bother to learn for yourselves instead of swallowing rubbish by the spoonfuls..so dumb, so ignorant, so brainwashed & then so many think Chinese are brainwashed!Ha ha!

    [Reply]

  9. kakert says:

    Xiao Long was NOT American..he was born in Hong Kong..& his name is not Bruce..get hold of his book, ‘Tao of Gung Fu’..read his philosophy!
    Why are so many laowai so ignorant about Mao? Get hold of the book by Edgar Snow, ‘Red Star Over China’.. sure he made mistakes as time went on & he admitting doing so, but he savved Chinese people from the greedy clutches of foreign powers, united the Chinese in the battle against Japan, & the hypocrisy of the Koumintang.Propanganda exists everywhere & no so more in China than elsewhere, especially the anti-communist sentiment (& is democracy that MUCH better?)..my favourite global dude is & remains so, Deng Xiao Peng..& hats off to Mao for not having him executed or you laowai may not even have the privilege of being in China today!

    [Reply]

  10. Robert Vance says:

    @Phillip,

    Sun Yat-Sen is under-appreciated in China mainly because Mao was such a powerful and commanding figure in recent Chinese history. As far as I am concerned, Sun is the Father of modern China…

    I think Totochi was trying to say that in his opinion, Mao is famous like Hitler and Stalin. In many ways, I agree with him but you are right when you say that this is not how the Chinese people see Mao.

    [Reply]

  11. Phillip says:

    Sun Yat-Sen was regarded by many Chinese as a pioneer in political reforms that had a great personality, yet lacked the finesse to achieve what he wanted. Chinese are fairly practical: Mao’s success in realizing his vision easily makes him more respected than Sun’s grand, yet failed dream of rapid democracy.
    The only serious contender with Mao as the “most famous” person in contemporary history is Deng Xiaoping and no one else.

    And, no, Totochi, to the Chinese, Mao is most certainly not like Hitler or Stalin.

    [Reply]

  12. Bowie says:

    Actually, it’ s really a difficult question. we all can’t easily tell who is the most famous one. But if there must be one, I think it’s Mao Zedong. It’s not because that he is the founder of the modern China, but that he lets the whole world know that what are Chines like when invaded. It’s a miracle that he led the Chinese through that difficulty though he ever made some mistakes.

    [Reply]

  13. Ping says:

    Pamela Anderson is famous

    [Reply]

  14. Robert Vance says:

    @Theo,

    Good one. But actually, while we are on the subject of movie stars, how about Jackie Chan and Jet Li? I suppose they the most famous Chinese people worldwide at least at the moment…

    [Reply]

  15. Theo says:

    BRUCE LEE by about a million miles, oh hang on, he was AMERICAN

    [Reply]

  16. @Totochi,

    I could not agree more with you about Mao. I have actually brought up the name of Sun Yat-sen in my classes after waiting to see if anyone would remember him. Few do bring up his name which I suppose speaks to the influence of Mao after he took power. While many have called Sun the “Father of Modern China” Mao is still held in higher esteem. Sun died 24 years before the founding of the PRC. I wonder what he would have though of Comrade Mao…

    [Reply]

  17. totochi says:

    孫中山 (Sun Yat-sen)

    Mao is “famous” like Hitler and Stalin.

    [Reply]

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