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.
With an HPI of 76.16, 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 during 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".
With an HPI of 71.50, Lu Xun is the 2nd most famous Chinese Writer. His biography has been translated into 104 different languages.
Zhou Shuren (25 September 1881 – 19 October 1936), better known by his pen name Lu Xun (or Lu Hsun; Chinese: 鲁迅; pinyin: Lǔxùn; Wade–Giles: Lu Hsün, LOO-shoon), was a Chinese writer, literary critic, lecturer, and state servant. 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 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 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 an office 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 life-long admirer of Lu Xun's writing. Though sympathetic to socialist ideals, Lu Xun never joined the Communist Party of China.
With an HPI of 69.04, Gao Xingjian is the 3rd most famous Chinese Writer. His biography has been translated into 90 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 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.
With an HPI of 67.24, 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.
With an HPI of 67.01, 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; 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.
With an HPI of 65.69, Luo Guanzhong is the 6th most famous Chinese Writer. His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.
Luo Ben (c. 1330–1400, or c.1280–1360), better known by his courtesy name Guanzhong (Mandarin pronunciation: [lwo kwanʈʂʊŋ]), is 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 is credited with writing Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.
With an HPI of 65.56, Wang Wei is the 7th most famous Chinese Writer. His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.
Wang Wei (699–759) was a Chinese musician, painter, poet, and politician of the middle Tang dynasty. He is regarded as one of the most famous men of arts and letters of his era. Many of his poems survive and 29 of them are included in the 18th-century anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems. Many of his best poems were inspired by the local landscape. Wang Wei is especially known as a poet and painter of nature. Some 400 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.
With an HPI of 65.54, Faxian is the 8th most famous Chinese Writer. His biography has been translated into 39 different languages.
Faxian (法顯 [fà.ɕjɛ̀n]; 337 CE – c. 422 CE), also referred to as Fa-Hien, Fa-hsien and Sehi, was a Chinese Buddhist monk and translator who traveled by foot from China to India to acquire Buddhist texts. Starting his arduous journey about age 60, he visited sacred Buddhist sites in Central, South, and Southeast Asia between 399 and 412 CE, of which 10 years were spent in India.He described his journey in his travelogue, A Record of Buddhist Kingdoms (Foguo Ji 佛國記). His memoirs are notable independent record of early Buddhism in India. He took with him a large number of Sanskrit texts, whose translations influenced East Asian Buddhism and which provide a terminus ante quem for many historical names, events, texts, and ideas therein.
With an HPI of 65.40, Mo Yan is the 9th most famous Chinese Writer. His biography has been translated into 92 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.
With an HPI of 64.77, Bai Juyi is the 10th most famous Chinese Writer. His biography has been translated into 41 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").
Pantheon has 114 people classified as writers born between 343 BC and 1982. Of these 114, 24 (21.05%) 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 April 2022, 11 new writers have been added to Pantheon including Lu Ji, Sakya Pandita, and Cui Hao.
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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.