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The Most Famous

MILITARY PERSONNELS from China

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This page contains a list of the greatest Chinese Military Personnels. The pantheon dataset contains 1,468 Military Personnels, 47 of which were born in China. This makes China the birth place of the 9th most number of Military Personnels behind Poland and Greece.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Chinese Military Personnels of all time. This list of famous Chinese Military Personnels is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Chinese Military Personnels.

Photo of Chiang Kai-shek

1. Chiang Kai-shek (1887 - 1975)

With an HPI of 76.83, Chiang Kai-shek is the most famous Chinese Military Personnel.  His biography has been translated into 115 different languages on wikipedia.

Chiang Kai-shek (31 October 1887 – 5 April 1975), also known as Chiang Chung-cheng and Jiang Jieshi, was a Chinese Nationalist politician, revolutionary, and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China (ROC) and the Generalissimo from 1928 to his death in 1975 – until 1949 in Mainland China and from then on in Taiwan. After his rule was confined to Taiwan following his defeat by Mao Zedong in the Chinese Civil War, he continued to lead the ROC government until his death. Born in the Chekiang (Zhejiang) Province, Chiang was a member of the Kuomintang (KMT), and a lieutenant of Sun Yat-sen in the revolution to overthrow the Beiyang government and reunify China. With help from the Soviets and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Chiang organized the military for Sun's Canton Nationalist Government and headed the Whampoa Military Academy. Commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army (from which he came to be known as a Generalissimo), he led the Northern Expedition from 1926 to 1928, before defeating a coalition of warlords and nominally reunifying China under a new Nationalist government. Midway through the Northern Expedition, the KMT–CCP alliance broke down and Chiang massacred communists inside the party, triggering a civil war with the CCP, which he eventually lost in 1949. As the leader of the Republic of China in the Nanjing decade, Chiang sought to strike a difficult balance between modernizing China, while also devoting resources to defending the nation against the CCP, warlords, and the impending Japanese threat. Trying to avoid a war with Japan while hostilities with the CCP continued, he was kidnapped in the Xi'an Incident, and obliged to form an Anti-Japanese United Front with the CCP. Following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937, he mobilized China for the Second Sino-Japanese War. For eight years, he led the war of resistance against a vastly superior enemy, mostly from the wartime capital Chongqing. As the leader of a major Allied power, Chiang met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Cairo Conference to discuss terms for the Japanese surrender. When the Second World War ended, the Civil War with the communists (by then led by Mao Zedong) resumed. Chiang's nationalists were mostly defeated in a few decisive battles in 1948. In 1949, Chiang's government and army retreated to the island of Taiwan, where Chiang imposed martial law and persecuted critics during the White Terror. Presiding over a period of social reforms and economic prosperity, Chiang won five elections to six-year terms as President of the Republic of China in which he faced minimal opposition or was elected unopposed. Three years into his fifth term as president, and one year before Mao Zedong's death, he passed in 1975. He was also director general of the Kuomintang until his death. One of the longest-serving non-royal heads of state in the 20th century, Chiang was the longest-serving non-royal ruler of China, having held the post for 46 years. Like Mao, he is regarded as a controversial figure. Supporters credit him with playing a major part in unifying the nation and leading the Chinese resistance against Japan, as well as with countering communist influence and economic development in both Mainland China and Taiwan. Detractors and critics denounce him as a dictator, and often accuse him of being a fascist at the front of a corrupt authoritarian regime that suppressed civilians and political dissents, as well as flooding the Yellow River that subsequently caused the Henan Famine during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Other historians such as Jay Taylor argued that despite his many faults, Chiang's ideology notably differs from other authoritarian dictators of the 20th century and does not espouse the ideology of fascism. He argued that Chiang made genuine efforts to improve the economic and social conditions of mainland China and Taiwan such as improving women's rights and land reform. Chiang was also credited with transforming China from a semi-colony of various imperialist powers to an independent country by amending the unequal treaties signed by previous governments, as well as moving various Chinese national treasures and traditional Chinese artworks to the National Palace Museum in Taipei during the 1949 retreat, thus saving them from likely destruction.

Photo of Cao Cao

2. Cao Cao (155 - 220)

With an HPI of 76.13, Cao Cao is the 2nd most famous Chinese Military Personnel.  His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.

Cao Cao (Chinese: 曹操; pinyin: Cáo Cāo) (pronunciation ; 155 – 15 March 220), courtesy name Mengde (Chinese: 孟德), was a Chinese statesman, warlord and poet. He was the penultimate grand chancellor of the Eastern Han dynasty, and he amassed immense power in the dynasty's final years. As one of the central figures of the Three Kingdoms period, Cao Cao laid the foundations for what became the state of Cao Wei, and he was posthumously honoured as "Emperor Wu of Wei", despite the fact that he never officially proclaimed himself Emperor of China or Son of Heaven. Cao Cao remains a controversial historical figure—he is often portrayed as a cruel and merciless tyrant in literature, but he has also been praised as a brilliant ruler, military genius, and great poet possessing unrivalled charisma, who treated his subordinates like family.During the fall of the Eastern Han dynasty, Cao Cao was able to secure most of northern China—which was at the time the most populated and developed part of China. Cao Cao was also very successful in restoring public order and rebuilding the economy as the grand chancellor. However, his manipulation of Emperor Xian as a puppet and figurehead was heavily criticised, as state affairs were effectively controlled by Cao Cao instead of the emperor himself. Opposition gathered around the warlords Liu Bei and Sun Quan, whom Cao Cao was unable to quell. Cao Cao was highly skilled in poetry, calligraphy, martial arts and military strategy. He wrote many war journals, including commentary on The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

Photo of Lü Bu

3. Lü Bu (161 - 199)

With an HPI of 74.85, Lü Bu is the 3rd most famous Chinese Military Personnel.  His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.

Lü Bu (pronunciation ; died 7 February 199), courtesy name Fengxian, was a Chinese military general, politician, and warlord who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty of Imperial China. Originally a subordinate of a minor warlord Ding Yuan, he betrayed and murdered Ding Yuan and defected to Dong Zhuo, the warlord who controlled the Han central government in the early 190s. In 192, he turned against Dong Zhuo and killed him after being instigated by Wang Yun and Shisun Rui, but was later defeated and driven away by Dong Zhuo's followers. From 192 to early 195, Lü Bu wandered around central and northern China, consecutively seeking shelter under warlords such as Yuan Shu, Yuan Shao and Zhang Yang. In 194, he managed to take control of Yan Province from the warlord Cao Cao with help from defectors from Cao's side, but Cao took back his territories within two years. In 195, Lü Bu turned against Liu Bei, who had offered him refuge in Xu Province, and seized control of the province from his host. Although he had agreed to an alliance with Yuan Shu earlier, he severed ties with him after Yuan declared himself emperor – treason against Emperor Xian of Han – and joined Cao and others in attacking the pretender. However, in 198, he sided with Yuan Shu again and came under attack by the combined forces of Cao and Liu, resulting in his defeat at the Battle of Xiapi in 199. He was captured and executed by strangulation on Cao's order. Although Lü Bu is described in historical and fictional sources as an exceptionally mighty warrior, he was also notorious for his unstable behaviour. He switched allegiances erratically and freely betrayed his allies. He was always suspicious of others and could not control his subordinates. All these factors ultimately led to his downfall. In the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the details of his life are dramatised and some fictitious elements – including his romance with the fictional maiden Diaochan – are added to portray him as a nearly unchallenged warrior who was also a ruthless and impulsive brute bereft of morals.

Photo of Guan Yu

4. Guan Yu (162 - 220)

With an HPI of 74.64, Guan Yu is the 4th most famous Chinese Military Personnel.  His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.

Guan Yu ([kwán ỳ] (listen); d. January or February 220), courtesy name Yunchang, was a Chinese military general serving under the warlord Liu Bei during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. Along with Zhang Fei, he shared a brotherly relationship with Liu Bei and accompanied him on most of his early exploits. Guan Yu played a significant role in the events leading up to the end of the Han dynasty and the establishment of Liu Bei's state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. While he is remembered for his loyalty towards Liu Bei, he is also known for repaying Cao Cao's kindness by slaying Yan Liang, a general under Cao Cao's rival Yuan Shao, at the Battle of Boma. After Liu Bei gained control of Yi Province in 214, Guan Yu remained in Jing Province to govern and defend the area for about seven years. In 219, while he was away fighting Cao Cao's forces at the Battle of Fancheng, Liu Bei's ally Sun Quan broke the Sun–Liu alliance and sent his general Lü Meng to conquer Liu Bei's territories in Jing Province. By the time Guan Yu found out about the loss of Jing Province after his defeat at Fancheng, it was too late. He was subsequently captured in an ambush by Sun Quan's forces and executed.Guan Yu's life was lionised and his achievements glorified to such an extent after his death that he was deified during the Sui dynasty. Through generations of storytelling, culminating in the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, his deeds and moral qualities have been given immense emphasis, making Guan Yu one of East Asia's most popular paradigms of loyalty and righteousness. He is still worshipped by many Chinese people today. In religious devotion he is reverentially called the "Emperor Guan" (Guān Dì) or "Lord Guan" (Guān Gōng). He is a deity worshipped in Chinese folk religion, popular Confucianism, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism, and small shrines to him are almost ubiquitous in traditional Chinese shops and restaurants.

Photo of Zhang Fei

5. Zhang Fei (167 - 221)

With an HPI of 69.61, Zhang Fei is the 5th most famous Chinese Military Personnel.  His biography has been translated into 31 different languages.

Zhang Fei (pronunciation ) (died July or August 221 AD), courtesy name Yide, was a military general serving under the warlord Liu Bei in the late Eastern Han dynasty and early Three Kingdoms period of China. Zhang Fei and Guan Yu, who were among the earliest to join Liu Bei, shared a brotherly relationship with their lord and accompanied him on most of his early exploits. Zhang Fei fought in various battles on Liu Bei's side, including the Red Cliffs campaign (208–209), takeover of Yi Province (212–214), and Hanzhong Campaign (217–218). He was assassinated by his subordinates in 221 after serving for only a few months in the state of Shu Han, which was founded by Liu Bei earlier that year.Zhang Fei is one of the major characters in the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which dramatises and romanticises the events before and during the Three Kingdoms period. In the novel, Zhang Fei became sworn brothers with Liu Bei and Guan Yu in the fictional Oath of the Peach Garden at the start of the novel and remained faithful to their oath until his death.

Photo of Zhao Yun

6. Zhao Yun (168 - 229)

With an HPI of 68.84, Zhao Yun is the 6th most famous Chinese Military Personnel.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Zhao Yun (Chinese: 趙雲 pronunciation ) (died 229), courtesy name Zilong (子龍), was a military general who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty and early Three Kingdoms period of China. Originally a subordinate of the northern warlord Gongsun Zan, Zhao Yun later came to serve another warlord, Liu Bei, and had since accompanied him on most of his military exploits, from the Battle of Changban (208) to the Hanzhong Campaign (217–219). He continued serving in the state of Shu Han – founded by Liu Bei in 221 – in the Three Kingdoms period and participated in the first of the Northern Expeditions until his death in 229. While many facts about Zhao Yun's life remain unclear due to limited information in historical sources, some aspects and activities in his life have been dramatised or exaggerated in folklore and fiction. In the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, he was lauded as a member of the Five Tiger Generals under Liu Bei.

Photo of Dong Zhuo

7. Dong Zhuo (139 - 192)

With an HPI of 68.31, Dong Zhuo is the 7th most famous Chinese Military Personnel.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Dong Zhuo (pronunciation ) (died 22 May 192), courtesy name Zhongying, was a Chinese military general, politician, and warlord who lived in the late Eastern Han dynasty. At the end of the reign of the Eastern Han, Dong Zhuo was a general and powerful minister of the imperial government. Yet he forced the young Emperor Shao of Han to abdicate and replaced him with his half-brother Emperor Xian of Han while he sought to become the de facto ruler of China in the boy-emperor's name. The Eastern Han dynasty regime survived in name only.Dong Zhuo seized control of the imperial capital Luoyang in 189 when it entered a state of turmoil following the death of Emperor Ling of Han and a massacre of the eunuch faction by the court officials led by General-in-Chief He Jin. Dong Zhuo subsequently deposed Liu Bian (Emperor Shao) and replaced him with his half-brother, the puppet Emperor Xian of Han. Dong Zhuo's rule was brief and characterized by cruelty and tyranny. In the following year, a coalition of regional officials (cishi) and warlords launched a campaign against him. Failing to stop the coalition forces, Dong Zhuo sacked Luoyang and relocated further west to the former Western Han capital at Chang'an (modern Xi'an, Shaanxi province). He was assassinated soon after in 192 by his subordinate Lü Bu in a plot orchestrated by Interior Minister Wang Yun.

Photo of Yue Fei

8. Yue Fei (1142 - 1142)

With an HPI of 66.51, Yue Fei is the 8th most famous Chinese Military Personnel.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Yue Fei (Chinese: 岳飛; March 24, 1103 – January 28, 1142), courtesy name Pengju (鵬舉) was a Chinese military general who lived during the Southern Song dynasty and considered a national hero of China, known for leading Southern Song forces in the wars in the 12th century between Southern Song and the Jurchen-ruled Jin dynasty in northern China. Because of his warlike stance, he was put to death by the Southern Song government in 1142 under a concocted charge, after a negotiated peace was achieved with the Jurchens. Yue Fei is depicted in the Wu Shuang Pu (無雙譜, Table of Peerless Heroes) by Jin Guliang. Yue Fei's ancestral home was in Xiaoti, Yonghe Village, Tangyin, Xiangzhou, Henan (in present-day Tangyin County, Anyang, Henan). He was granted the posthumous name Wumu (武穆) by Emperor Xiaozong in 1169, and later granted the noble title King of È (鄂王) posthumously by the Emperor Ningzong in 1211. Widely seen as a patriot and national folk hero in China, since his death Yue Fei has evolved into a paragon of loyalty in Chinese culture.

Photo of Sun Jian

9. Sun Jian (155 - 191)

With an HPI of 66.26, Sun Jian is the 9th most famous Chinese Military Personnel.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Sun Jian (Chinese: 孫堅; pinyin: Sūn Jiān) (pronunciation ) (155–191?), courtesy name Wentai, was a Chinese military general, politician, and warlord who lived during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. He allied himself with Yuan Shu in 190 when warlords from eastern China formed a coalition to oust Dong Zhuo, a tyrannical warlord who held the puppet Emperor Xian in his power. Although he controlled neither many troops nor much land, Sun Jian's personal bravery and resourcefulness were feared by Dong Zhuo, who placed him among Yuan Shao, Yuan Shu and Liu Biao as the most influential men at that time. After the coalition disbanded in the next year, China fell into civil war. In 191, Sun Jian was killed in battle during an offensive campaign against Liu Biao. Sun Jian was also the father of Sun Quan, one of the central figures of the Three Kingdoms era who eventually established the Eastern Wu state and declared himself its first emperor in 229, whereupon Sun Jian was given the posthumous title Emperor Wulie (武烈皇帝).

Photo of Zhou Yu

10. Zhou Yu (175 - 210)

With an HPI of 66.23, Zhou Yu is the 10th most famous Chinese Military Personnel.  His biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Zhou Yu (Chinese: 周瑜, pronunciation) (175–210), courtesy name Gongjin (Chinese: 公瑾), was a Chinese military general and strategist serving under the warlord Sun Ce in the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. After Sun Ce died in the year 200, he continued serving under Sun Quan, Sun Ce's younger brother and successor. Zhou Yu is primarily known for his leading role in defeating the numerically superior forces of the northern warlord Cao Cao at the Battle of Red Cliffs in late 208, and again at the Battle of Jiangling in 209. Zhou Yu's victories served as the bedrock of Sun Quan's regime, which in 222 became Eastern Wu, one of the Three Kingdoms. Zhou Yu did not live to see Sun Quan's enthronement, however, as he died at the age of 35 in 210 while preparing to invade Yi Province (modern Sichuan and Chongqing). According to the Records of the Three Kingdoms, Zhou Yu was described as a strong man with beautiful appearance. He was also referred to as "Master Zhou" (zhoulang 周郎). However, his popular moniker "Zhou the Beautiful Youth" (meizhoulang 美周郎) does not appear in either the Records or the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Some Japanese literary scholars such as Yoshikawa Eiji and Koide Fumihiko believe that this was a later invention by Japanese storytellers.

Pantheon has 47 people classified as military personnels born between 401 BC and 1942. Of these 47, 1 (2.13%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living military personnels include Guo Boxiong. The most famous deceased military personnels include Chiang Kai-shek, Cao Cao, and Lü Bu. As of April 2022, 3 new military personnels have been added to Pantheon including Deng Ai, Ma Dai, and Xie Lingyun.

Living Military Personnels

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Deceased Military Personnels

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Newly Added Military Personnels (2022)

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Which Military Personnels were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 5 most globally memorable Military Personnels since 1700.