In my speaking class, I did a Top 10 Most Influential People list. I started with a list of the top 10 from a magazine, which listed mostly Americans (such as Steve Jobs, Oprah, and Mark Zuckerberg amongst others.) Then I asked them, in small groups, to come up with their own Top 10 lists of the most influential Chinese People (of all time.) As expected every groups list was different (it is such a subjective thing after all) so then we put the lists together to make one master list.
Some of these names are familiar, and some are not, so I thought I’d share the lists from the 2 classes so you could get to know some important Chinese people better.
3. Deng Xiaoping
I think the first three names would be the first three names to show up on anybodies list because they are truly influential people in history and if you aren’t familiar with these names, well, you need to brush up on your history a bit (or eat a few more fortune cookies.)
4. Yuan Longping- The rice guy. He developed the first hybrid rice in the 70’s which is now grown in countries like China, India and even America (marking the first time a patented idea from China was imported to the west.) Because of this guy, and his hybrid rice, rice production has increased steadily and prevented famine all over the world. Not bad.
5. Sun Zhongshan- this is the Chinese name for Sun Yat-sen, the guy that was the founder, and first president of the Republic of China. He had a very turbulent career, but today is revered both in Taiwan and Mainland China (something they both agree on for once.)
6. Lu Xun- A famous writer. He lived from 1881-1936 and is considered the father of modern chinese literature. Mao was even a fan. He wrote in classical style, but also in common, everyday language, and took up causes that people cared about which made loved by the average joe (or zhou as the case may be). Even today my student admire him. One girl said that aside from her parents, his writings influenced her life the most.
7. Yang Liwei – The first chinese citizen to go to space. While he didn’t really do anything beyond being a good astronaut, Yang Liwei is a national hero, like our Armstrong, so he ended up on this list.
8. Bruce Lee – Total badass. If you don’t know who he is, time to move out of the dark cave you’ve been living in.
9. Qin ShiHuang – the first emperor. This is the first emperor who united China and forced a common language, currency and road system creating what is now China. He was also bats shit crazy. You can read more about him here.
10. Yao Ming – While not one of the most famous NBA players in the west, he is hugely influential here in China and is partly responsible for the huge popularity of the NBA in China.
Here is the Top 10 list as created by the other class:
I find it interesting how the lists differ. Many names are the same, but most are in a different order.
2. Chairman Mao
3. Lu Xun- the writer. Interesting he beat out Deng Xiaoping in this class. The kids really admired him.
4. Yuan Longping – The rice guy
5. Jackie Chan – triple threat. Here in China, Jackie Chan is all over the place. He’s not just a funny/skilled actor like he is in the west. He is also a singer, and activist (loves his country) and an all around salesman. You can’t walk into a store without seeing his image plastered on everything from shampoo to cameras. The guy is kinda a sell-out.
6. Deng Xiapoing – responsible for modern/open China (and Tiananmen Square but they’re trying to forget that) but this class thought he shouldn’t be in the top 5. Sorry buddy.
7. Qian Xuesen – Scientist. Qian Xuesen was actually a scientist in California and was one of the founders of the Jet-propulsion lab in California. But, this was during the 50’s and America hated anything Communist, so he was stripped of his duties and put under house arrest for 5 years for “communist sympathies.” (He was Chinese after all.) He finally made in back to China (in a hostage exchange deal) and continued his work. He is nicknamed the “King of rocketry,” and both China and America benefitted from his research.
8. Sun Yat-sen (this class knew his English name.)
9. Lei Feng – Communist do-gooder that loved Mao. Lei Feng was just a common soldier, but after his death in ’63 he was raised as a role model and everyone was encouraged to “learn from comrade Lei Feng.” They posthumously “found” (aka made up) his personal diary and told countless stories of his selfless deeds. They even “discovered” (aka faked) 12 high-quality pictures of him helping others. Every year there is a “Lei Feng Day” in which students go out and help others, and clean the school. I didn’t have the heart to tell the students he was just made up by Mao’s propaganda machine, because his sole purpose is to help others so why destroy that, right?
10. Yao Ming – Everyone’s favorite tall Chinese guy.
I have done this class before and I love it because I also get to know the names of important chinese people that I might not have known before. It’s true that the west has contributed more influential people in the world, but that doesn’t mean that China should go unrecognized. They have made some amazing contributions to the world.