The Most Famous

WRITERS from China

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This page contains a list of the greatest Chinese Writers. The pantheon dataset contains 7,302 Writers, 120 of which were born in China. This makes China the birth place of the 11th most number of Writers behind Turkey, 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 Li Bai

1. Li Bai (701 - 762)

With an HPI of 78.86, Li Bai is the most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 144 different languages on wikipedia.

Li Bai (Chinese: 李白; pinyin: Lǐ Bái, 701–762), formerly pronounced Li Bo, courtesy name Taibai (太白), was a Chinese poet acclaimed as one of the greatest and most important poets of the Tang dynasty and in Chinese history as a whole. He and his friend Du Fu (712–770) were two of the most prominent figures in the flourishing of Chinese poetry under the Tang dynasty, which is often called the "Golden Age of Chinese Poetry". The expression "Three Wonders" denotes Li Bai's poetry, Pei Min's swordplay, and Zhang Xu's calligraphy.Around 1,000 poems attributed to Li are extant. His poems have been collected into the most important Tang dynasty collection, Heyue yingling ji, compiled in 753 by Yin Fan. Thirty-four of Li Bai's poems are included in the anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems, which was first published in the 18th century. Around the same time, translations of his poems began to appear in Europe. The poems became models for celebrating the pleasures of friendship, the depth of nature, solitude, and the joys of drinking. Among the most famous are "Waking from Drunkenness on a Spring Day"(Chinese: 春日醉起言志), "The Hard Road to Shu"(Chinese: 蜀道难), "Bring in the Wine"(Chinese: 将进酒), and "Quiet Night Thought"(Chinese: 静夜思), which are still taught in schools in China. In the West, multilingual translations of Li's poems continue to be made. His life has even taken on a legendary aspect, including tales of drunkenness and chivalry, and the well-known tale that Li drowned when he reached from his boat to grasp the moon's reflection in the river while he was drunk. Much of Li's life is reflected in his poems, which are about places he visited; friends whom he saw off on journeys to distant locations, perhaps never to meet again; his own dream-like imaginings, embroidered with shamanic overtones; current events of which he had news; descriptions of nature, perceived as if in a timeless moment; and more. However, of particular importance are the changes in China during his lifetime. His early poems were written in a "golden age" of internal peace and prosperity, under an emperor who actively promoted and participated in the arts. This ended with the beginning of the rebellion of general An Lushan, which eventually left most of Northern China devastated by war and famine. Li's poems during this period take on new tones and qualities. Unlike his younger friend Du Fu, Li did not live to see the end of the chaos. Li Bai is depicted in the Wu Shuang Pu (無雙譜, Table of Peerless Heroes) by Jin Guliang.

Photo of Du Fu

2. Du Fu (712 - 770)

With an HPI of 76.88, Du Fu is the 2nd most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 115 different languages.

Du Fu (Chinese: 杜甫; Wade–Giles: Tu Fu; 712–770) was a Chinese poet and politician during the Tang dynasty. Together with his elder contemporary and friend Li Bai, Du is often considered one of the greatest Chinese poets. His greatest ambition was to serve his country as a successful civil servant, but Du proved unable to make the necessary accommodations. His life, like all of China, 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

3. Lu Xun (1881 - 1936)

With an HPI of 72.87, Lu Xun is the 3rd most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 105 different languages.

Lu Xun (Chinese: 鲁迅; Wade–Giles: Lu Hsün; 25 September 1881 – 19 October 1936), born Zhou Zhangshou, was a Chinese writer, literary critic, lecturer, and state servant. He was a leading figure of modern Chinese literature. Writing in vernacular and Literary 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 during republican-era China (1912–1949). 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 examinations, but due to his family's relative poverty he was forced to attend government-funded schools teaching "foreign education". Upon graduation, Lu studied medicine at Tohoku University 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 an office at the Republic of China Ministry of Education. Following the May Fourth Movement in 1919, Lu's writing began to exert a substantial influence on Chinese literature and popular culture. Like many of the movement's leader, Lu was a leftist. After the Proclamation of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, his work received considerable acclaim from the Chinese government, with Mao Zedong being an admirer of Lu's writing throughout his life. Though he was sympathetic to socialist ideas, Lu never joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Photo of Gao Xingjian

4. Gao Xingjian (b. 1940)

With an HPI of 70.05, Gao Xingjian is the 4th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 92 different languages.

Gao Xingjian (高行健 in Chinese; born January 4, 1940) is a Chinese émigré and later French naturalized 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 1997, 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

5. Qu Yuan (-343 - -278)

With an HPI of 68.25, Qu Yuan is the 5th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.

Qu Yuan (c. 340 BC – 278 BC) was a Chinese poet and aristocrat 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 Luo Guanzhong

6. Luo Guanzhong (1330 - 1400)

With an HPI of 67.02, Luo Guanzhong is the 6th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 33 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 is also known by his pseudonym Huhai Sanren (Chinese: 湖海散人; pinyin: Húhǎi Sǎnrén; lit. 'Leisure Man of Lakes and Seas'). Luo Guanzhong is credited with writing Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.

Photo of Wu Cheng'en

7. Wu Cheng'en (1500 - 1582)

With an HPI of 66.99, Wu Cheng'en is the 7th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 48 different languages.

Wu Cheng'en (traditional Chinese: 吳承恩; simplified Chinese: 吴承恩; pinyin: Wú Chéng'ēn; Wade–Giles: Wu2 Ch‘êng2-ên1; Jyutping: Ng4 Sing4 Jan1, c. 1500–1582 or 1505–1580), courtesy name Ruzhong (汝忠), was a Chinese novelist, poet, and politician during the Ming dynasty. He is considered by many to be the author of Journey to the West, one of the Classic Chinese Novels.

Photo of Kumārajīva

8. Kumārajīva (343 - 413)

With an HPI of 66.42, Kumārajīva is the 8th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.

Kumārajīva (Sanskrit: कुमारजीव; 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 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").

Photo of Bai Juyi

9. Bai Juyi (772 - 846)

With an HPI of 66.26, Bai Juyi is the 9th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 44 different languages.

Bai Juyi (also Bo Juyi or Po Chü-i; Chinese: 白居易; 772–846), courtesy name Letian (樂天), was a Chinese musician, poet, and politician during the Tang dynasty. 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 medieval East Asia.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 Mo Yan

10. Mo Yan (b. 1955)

With an HPI of 66.17, Mo Yan is the 10th most famous Chinese Writer.  His biography has been translated into 95 different languages.

Guan Moye (simplified Chinese: 管谟业; traditional Chinese: 管謨業; pinyin: Guǎn Móyè; born 5 March 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.

People

Pantheon has 127 people classified as Chinese writers born between 343 BC and 1982. Of these 127, 30 (23.62%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living Chinese writers include Gao Xingjian, Mo Yan, and Bei Dao. The most famous deceased Chinese writers include Li Bai, Du Fu, and Lu Xun. As of April 2024, 6 new Chinese writers have been added to Pantheon including Xue Tao, Luo Yixiu, and Hwang Sok-yong.

Living Chinese Writers

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Deceased Chinese Writers

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Newly Added Chinese Writers (2024)

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Overlapping Lives

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