Who are the most famous Chinese people? - The Helpful Panda (2023)

The international actress recently tried something different with biographical sports film, Leap. She said it was the hardest role she’s ever played.

It was China’s entry for best international feature film in the 2021 Oscars (it didn’t win).

The Chinese actress changed her nationality to Singaporean in 2008 after she got married to a local, though the pair later divorced.

Who are the most famous Chinese people? - The Helpful Panda (1)

Gong Li is an acclaimed actress. Image by Andrea Raffin on Shutterstock.

In 2020, photos of Gong Li’s curvier figure went viral on Weibo (China’s version of Twitter), receiving over 850 million clicks.

This sparked a backlash against body shaming.

Learn more about Gong Li’s outstanding movies.

12. Jet Li

Here’s another famous Li in the stable of famous Chinese people.

Li Lianjie, better known by his stage name Jet Li, is a Singaporean actor, producer and martial artist, who was born in Beijing.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he starred in critically acclaimed Chinese martial arts movies such as Hero and the Once Upon a Time in China series.

Then he became big in Hollywood.

His famous fight scenes in early 2000s movies, including Lethal Weapon 4 and Romeo Must Die, made him a household name.

Jet Li’s legendary status even qualified him to join other action stars in The Expendables. He also starred in Mulan alongside Gong Li.

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Li is a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism.

13. Qin Shi Huang

OK, we’re back to the dead guys again!

Qin Shi Huang reigned from 221 BC to 210 BC. He was the founder of the Qin dynasty and the first emperor of a unified China.

However, Emperor Qin was known as a cruel leader. He outlawed most forms of religion and even ordered the burning of books.

But he’s not really famous for that.

People know Qin Shi Huang for his elaborate tomb in Xi’an, western China, built to protect him in the afterlife – known as the Terracotta Army.

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Qin Shi Huang’s Terracotta Army. Image by Christel Sagnieze on Pixabay.

It is said that about 700,000 people helped construct his tomb of 8,000 soldiers, horses and chariots made of terracotta.

The famous archaeological site was only discovered in 1974. And, in 2020, another 200 sculptures were miraculously found nearby.

If you’re lucky enough to travel to China, make sure you check out the Terracotta Army. I personally think Xi’an is one of the best places to visit in China.

14. Empress Dowager Cixi

Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908) is the longest ruling woman in China’s history.

She was one of Emperor Xianfeng’s low-ranking concubines. But in 1856, she bore his only son.

This catapulted her into power over the last five decades of the Qing Dynasty.

Empress Dowager Cixi is most famous for the Sino-Japanese War and the Boxer Rebellion.

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Model of Qing Dynasty leader, Empress Dowager Cixi. Image by Junrong on Shutterstock.

Historians are conflicted about Cixi’s reputation. Some have blamed her for the end of Imperial China, while others claim she brought China into a modern age.

Like many other famous world leaders, most of her accomplishments weren’t recognized until after her death.

Learn more about Chinese history.

15. Jay Chou

The multi-talented Jay Chou is Taiwan’s biggest superstar.

He’s a singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer, actor, film director, businessman and even magician!

Jay Chou is best known for his music though, and people call him the King of Mandopop.

He’s sold over 30 million records and is huge in East Asia.

Who are the most famous Chinese people? - The Helpful Panda (4)

Jay Chou is a Taiwanese superstar. Image by s_bukley on Shutterstock.

In 2020, he released his own Netflix travel show, J-Style Trip, as well as a new Latin-flavored pop hit.

Chou is a man who loves nice cars. He has a collection of 20 vehicles including a McLaren Senna, one of only 500 made, which cost a staggering US$2 million.

You can follow Jay Chou on Instagram.

16. Li Jiaqi

Widely known in China as ‘Lipstick King’ or ‘Lipstick Brother’, Li Jiaqi is China’s biggest influencer.

The entrepreneurial Chinese shot to fame a few years ago for famously selling a record number of lipsticks to his adoring and cashed-up fans during a livestreaming event.

Since then, he’s continued to sell an insane amount of makeup, reportedly earning him millions each month.

Who are the most famous Chinese people? - The Helpful Panda (5)

The Lipstick King is China’s famous influencer. Image by Don’t Die Wondering.

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But like a couple of other people on this list, Li Jiaqi is not without controversy. He mysteriously disappeared for a few months in mid-2022 after he presented a cake that resembled a tank on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

In a fairly conservative China, Li Jiaqi pushes the boundaries with his flamboyancy and passion for products which have historically been a feminine mainstay.

17. Zhang Yimou

Zhang is China’s greatest ever filmmaker.

He’s directed some of the best movies to come out of China including Raise the Red Lantern, To Live and House of Flying Daggers.

Having said that, fantasy action film The Great Wall, featuring Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe, is absolutely terrible in my opinion.

With a 50/50 split between English and Mandarin dialogue, it’s blatantly obvious that the movie was made to capitalize on both Chinese and American audiences.

It was a box office bomb with an audience score of only 42% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Zhang Yimou recently directed Cliff Walkers, a spy thriller set during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, stoking feelings of Chinese nationalism.

The 71-year-old has said that he won’t work with actresses who have had plastic surgery.

Learn more about Zhang Yimou’s complicated relationship with Chinese censors.

Other notable Chinese people

Some other key people include:

  • Deng Xiaoping, a leader who helped open up China in the 1980s
  • Sun Tzu, a general and military strategist in ancient China who wrote The Art of War
  • Dilraba Dilmurat, a rising star actress of Uyghur ethnicity
  • Ma Huateng, known as Pony Ma, a Chinese billionaire who runs tech company Tencent.

Why are there more famous Chinese men than women?

Although Mao Zedong famously said “Women hold up half the sky”, in reality Chinese women have a lower social status than Chinese men, even to this day.

Roles of power and leadership have been predominantly held by Chinese men for centuries in a classic patriarchal society.

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Women’s movement was hampered with the ancient practice of foot binding, and in more recent times, women were subjected to forced sterilization under the One Child Policy.

While gender equality is an official state policy and attitudes are slowly changing, baby boys are still preferred over baby girls in many families.

I’ve only just scratched the surface on this issue, but you can see how the status of Chinese men has had an impact on the role of women and their place in the world.

What are Chinese people like?

That’s a whole other topic, and one worth exploring.

If you’d like to dive deeper into the Chinese psyche, go here: What are Chinese people like?

A quick travel tip

Are you traveling to China soon? If so, don’t forget the internet is censored when using Wi-Fi.

So, to access all your favorite websites and apps (like Facebook, Instagram, Google, Gmail, WhatsApp, etc), you’ll need to get a VPNbeforeyou arrive. Otherwise, the signup page will be blocked in China.

Check outthis page before you fly over there. It’ll make your trip easier and more enjoyable.

Now you know some famous Chinese people

Now that you know a bunch of famous Chinese people, you’re going to smash it at the next trivia night!

But seriously, learning about famous Chinese people is a good way to expand your horizons and appreciate other countries and cultures.

As China’s voice gets louder, you’re bound to hear more about noteworthy Chinese people from all walks of life.

If you feel I’ve missed an obvious choice, please let me know in the comments.

I hope you liked my article on famous Chinese people. You may also like the one I wrote about famous Chinese foods.

Or, inform yourself with some brilliant documentaries about China. Lots of thought-provoking viewing!


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