The Most Famous

WRITERS from China

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This page contains a list of the greatest Chinese Writers. The pantheon dataset contains 5,794 Writers, 103 of which were born in China. This makes China the birth place of the 11th most number of Writers behind Poland and India.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Chinese Writers of all time. This list of famous Chinese Writers 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 Writers.

Photo of Du Fu

1. Du Fu (712 - 770)

With an HPI of 80.25, Du Fu is the most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 113 different languages on wikipedia.

Du Fu (Chinese: 杜甫; Wade–Giles: Tu Fu; 712–770) was a Chinese poet and politician of the Tang dynasty. Along with his elder contemporary and friend Li Bai (Li Po), he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets. His greatest ambition was to serve his country as a successful civil servant, but he proved unable to make the necessary accommodations. His life, like the whole country, was devastated by the An Lushan Rebellion of 755, and his last 15 years were a time of almost constant unrest. Although initially he was little-known to other writers, his works came to be hugely influential in both Chinese and Japanese literary culture. Of his poetic writing, nearly fifteen hundred poems have been preserved over the ages. He has been called the "Poet-Historian" and the "Poet-Sage" by Chinese critics, while the range of his work has allowed him to be introduced to Western readers as "the Chinese Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Shakespeare, Milton, Burns, Wordsworth, Béranger, Hugo or Baudelaire".

Photo of Lu Xun

2. Lu Xun (1881 - 1936)

With an HPI of 79.03, Lu Xun is the 2nd most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 105 different languages.

Zhou Shuren (25 September 1881 – 19 October 1936), better known by his pen name Lu Xun (or Lu Sun, Wade–Giles: Lu Hsün), was a Chinese writer, essayist, poet, and literary critic. He was a leading figure of modern Chinese literature. Writing in vernacular Chinese and classical Chinese, he was a short story writer, editor, translator, literary critic, essayist, poet, and designer. In the 1930s, he became the titular head of the League of Left-Wing Writers in Shanghai. Lu Xun was born into a family of landlords and government officials in Shaoxing, Zhejiang; the family's financial resources declined over the course of his youth. Lu aspired to take the imperial exams, but due to his family's relative poverty he was forced to attend government-funded schools teaching "Western education". Upon graduation, Lu went to medical school in Japan but later dropped out. He became interested in studying literature but was eventually forced to return to China because of his family's lack of funds. After returning to China, Lu worked for several years teaching at local secondary schools and colleges before finally finding a job at the Republic of China Ministry of Education. After the 1919 May Fourth Movement, Lu Xun's writing began to exert a substantial influence on Chinese literature and popular culture. Like many leaders of the May Fourth Movement, he was primarily a leftist. He was highly acclaimed by the Chinese government after 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded, and Mao Zedong himself was a lifelong admirer of Lu Xun's writing. Though sympathetic to socialist ideals, Lu Xun never joined the Communist Party of China.

Photo of Gao Xingjian

3. Gao Xingjian (1940 - )

With an HPI of 76.92, Gao Xingjian is the 3rd most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 88 different languages.

Gao Xingjian (高行健 in Chinese - born January 4, 1940) is a Chinese émigré novelist, playwright, critic, painter, photographer, film director, and translator who in 2000 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "for an oeuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity." He is also a noted translator (particularly of Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco), screenwriter, stage director, and a celebrated painter. Gao's drama is considered to be fundamentally absurdist in nature and avant-garde in his native China. Absolute Signal (1982) was a breakthrough in Chinese experimental theatre. The Bus Stop (1983) and The Other Shore (1986) had their productions halted by the Chinese government, with the acclaimed Wild Man (1985) the last work of his to be publicly performed in China. He left the country in 1987 and his plays from The Other Shore onward increasingly centered on universal (rather than Chinese) concerns, but his 1989 play Exile angered both the government for its depiction of China and the overseas democracy movement for its depiction of intellectuals. In 1998, he was granted French citizenship. Gao's influences include classical Chinese opera, folk culture, and 20th century European drama such as Antonin Artaud, and he said in 1987 that as a writer he could be placed at the meeting point between Western and Eastern cultures. He is a very private person, however, and later claimed, "No matter whether it is in politics or literature, I do not believe in or belong to any party or school, and this includes nationalism and patriotism." His prose works tend to be less celebrated in China but are highly regarded elsewhere in Europe and the West, with Soul Mountain singled out in the Nobel Prize announcement.

Photo of Qu Yuan

4. Qu Yuan (-343 - -278)

With an HPI of 75.64, Qu Yuan is the 4th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 52 different languages.

Qu Yuan (c. 340 BC – 278 BC) was a Chinese poet and politician in the State of Chu during the Warring States period. He is known for his patriotism and contributions to classical poetry and verses, especially through the poems of the Chu Ci anthology (also known as The Songs of the South or Songs of Chu): a volume of poems attributed to or considered to be inspired by his verse writing. Together with the Shi Jing, the Chu Ci is one of the two greatest collections of ancient Chinese verse. He is also remembered in connection to the supposed origin of the Dragon Boat Festival. Historical details about Qu Yuan's life are few, and his authorship of many Chu Ci poems has been questioned at length. However, he is widely accepted to have written "The Lament," a Chu Ci poem. The first known reference to Qu Yuan appears in a poem written in 174 BC by Jia Yi, an official from Luoyang who was slandered by jealous officials and banished to Changsha by Emperor Wen of Han. While traveling, he wrote a poem describing the similar fate of a previous "Qu Yuan." Eighty years later, the first known biography of Qu Yuan's life appeared in Han dynasty historian Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian, though it contains a number of contradictory details.

Photo of Wu Cheng'en

5. Wu Cheng'en (1500 - 1582)

With an HPI of 74.76, Wu Cheng'en is the 5th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 47 different languages.

Wu Cheng'en (traditional Chinese: 吳承恩; simplified Chinese: 吴承恩; pinyin: Wú Chéng'ēn, c. 1500–1582 or 1505–1580), courtesy name Ruzhong (汝忠), was a Chinese novelist and poet of the Ming Dynasty, and is considered by many to be the author of Journey to the West, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.

Photo of Luo Guanzhong

6. Luo Guanzhong (1330 - 1400)

With an HPI of 74.02, Luo Guanzhong is the 6th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.

Luo Ben (c. 1330–1400, or c.1280–1360), better known by his courtesy name Guanzhong (Mandarin pronunciation: [lwo kwanʈʂʊŋ]), was a Chinese writer who lived during the Ming dynasty. He was also known by his pseudonym Huhai Sanren (Chinese: 湖海散人; pinyin: Húhǎi Sǎnrén; lit. 'Leisure Man of Lakes and Seas'). Luo was attributed with writing Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.

Photo of Mo Yan

7. Mo Yan (1955 - )

With an HPI of 73.67, Mo Yan is the 7th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 86 different languages.

Guan Moye (simplified Chinese: 管谟业; traditional Chinese: 管謨業; pinyin: Guǎn Móyè; born 17 February 1955), better known by the pen name Mo Yan (, Chinese: 莫言; pinyin: Mò Yán), is a Chinese novelist and short story writer. Donald Morrison of U.S. news magazine TIME referred to him as "one of the most famous, oft-banned and widely pirated of all Chinese writers", and Jim Leach called him the Chinese answer to Franz Kafka or Joseph Heller. In 2012, Mo was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work as a writer "who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary".He is best known to Western readers for his 1986 novel Red Sorghum, the first two parts of which were adapted as the Golden Bear-winning film Red Sorghum (1988). He won the 2005 International Nonino Prize in Italy. In 2009, he was the first recipient of the University of Oklahoma's Newman Prize for Chinese Literature.

Photo of Wang Wei

8. Wang Wei (699 - 759)

With an HPI of 73.58, Wang Wei is the 8th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 39 different languages.

Wang Wei (Chinese: 王維; 699–759) was a Chinese poet, musician, painter, and politician during the Tang dynasty. He was one of the most famous men of arts and letters of his time. Many of his poems are preserved, and twenty-nine were included in the highly influential 18th-century anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems. Wang Wei is especially known as a poet and painter of nature. Some 400 of his poems survive. These were first collected and originally edited into a corpus by his next-youngest brother, Wang Jin, by imperial command. Of his paintings, no authenticated specimens survive, although there is evidence of his work through influences on later paintings and descriptive accounts of his paintings. His musical talents were regarded very highly, although nothing survives of his music except reports. He furthermore had a successful career as a court official. Eventually, he became a devout Zen Buddhist and a vegetarian. Wang Wei spent ten years studying with Chán master Daoguang.

Photo of Bai Juyi

9. Bai Juyi (772 - 846)

With an HPI of 73.31, Bai Juyi is the 9th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 39 different languages.

Bai Juyi (also Bo Juyi or Po Chü-i; Chinese: 白居易; 772–846), courtesy name Letian (Chinese: 樂天), was a renowned Chinese poet and Tang dynasty government official. Many of his poems concern his career or observations made about everyday life, including as governor of three different provinces. He achieved fame as a writer of verse in a low-key, near vernacular style that was popular throughout China, in Korea and Japan.Bai was also influential in the historical development of Japanese literature, where he is better known by the on'yomi reading of his courtesy name, Haku Rakuten (shinjitai: 白楽天). His younger brother Bai Xingjian was a short story writer. Among his most famous works are the long narrative poems "Chang hen ge" ("Song of Everlasting Sorrow"), which tells the story of Yang Guifei, and "Pipa xing" ("Song of the Pipa").

Photo of Kumārajīva

10. Kumārajīva (343 - 413)

With an HPI of 72.98, Kumārajīva is the 10th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 36 different languages.

Kumārajīva (Sanskrit, traditional Chinese: 鳩摩羅什; simplified Chinese: 鸠摩罗什; pinyin: Jiūmóluóshí; Wade–Giles: Chiu1 mo2 lo2 shih2, 344–413 CE) was a Buddhist monk, scholar, missionary and translator from the Kingdom of Kucha (present-day Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang, China). Kumārajīva is seen as one of the greatest translators of Chinese Buddhism. According to Lu Cheng, Kumarajiva's translations are "unparalleled either in terms of translation technique or degree of fidelity".Kumārajīva first studied teachings of the Sarvastivadin schools, later studied under Buddhasvāmin, and finally became an adherent of Mahayana Buddhism, studying the Mādhyamaka doctrine of Nāgārjuna. After mastering the Chinese language, Kumārajīva settled as a translator and scholar in Chang'an (c. 401 CE). He was the head of a team of translators which included his amanuensis Sengrui. This team was responsible for the translation of many Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Chinese. Kumārajīva also introduced the Madhyamaka school of Buddhist philosophy into China which would later be called Sanlun (the "Three Treatise school").

Pantheon has 103 people classified as writers born between 343 BC and 1982. Of these 103, 22 (21.36%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living writers include Gao Xingjian, Mo Yan, and Liu Cixin. The most famous deceased writers include Du Fu, Lu Xun, and Qu Yuan. As of October 2020, 7 new writers have been added to Pantheon including Zhou Daguan, Sanmao, and Lin Shu.

Living Writers

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Deceased Writers

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Newly Added Writers (2020)

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Which Writers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Writers since 1700.