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Important Historical Figures from Asian History

Important men and women who shaped or affected the history of East Asia, especially China, Korea, and Japan.
Mao Zedong
Founder and first paramount leader of the People's Republic of China
Hua Goufeng
Creator of the "Two Whatever's" doctrine and immediate successor to Mao, later ousted by Deng Xiaoping
Syngman Rhee
First president of the Korean Provisional Government in exile and first president of the Republic of Korea
Kim Il Sung
First chairman of the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, father of Kim Jung Il
Kim Jung Il
Son of Kim Il Sung and second paramount leader of North Korea
Hu Jintao
Fifth paramount leader of the People's Republic of China and successor of Jiang Zemin
Wen Jibao
The fourth generation premier of the People's Republic of China
Kim Okkyun
A Korean patriot and terrorist assassinated by Syngman Rhee's henchmen under mysterious circumstances
Wang Yangming
A controversial neo-Confucian master who taught his disciples to follow their intuition
Zhou Enlai
Longstanding premier of the People's Republic of China, a survivor of the Maoist era; died of cancer just before Mao
Jiang Zemin
Fourth Paramount Leader of the People's Republic of China; the core of the third generation leadership of the PRC
Ito Hirobumi
The first prime minister of Japan; later assassinated by a Korean nationalist
Emperor Hirohito (the Showa Emperor)
The Japanese emperor who presided over World War II
Emperor Meiji
The Japanese emperor who served as the figurehead of the Japanese modernization movement
Hideki Tojo
The unrepentant military man and prime minister of Japan during World War II; was sentenced to death by hanging by the Allies
Deng Xiaoping
The third Paramount Leader of the People's Republic of China; set China on a pragmatic course of economic development that turned China into an economic superpower
Lin Biao
One of Mao's closest confidants; later tried to kill Mao but failed; died in a plane crash over Mongolia
Hara Takashi
The first commoner to become prime minister of Japan
King Kojong
The last monarch of the Choson dynasty
The last emperor of China
Sun Yat-sen
The founder of the Chinese nationalist party
Lu Xun
The beloved Chinese author who criticized traditional China through such classics as "The Diary of a Madman" and "Ah Q"
Kita Ikki
A cocain addict who hated Japanese modernization and wrote that Japan should return to its roots, adopting the samurai as the guardians of the people
Oda Nobunaga
A Japanese warlord who tried to unite Japan under his rule, but failed
Tokugawa Ieyasu
The first shogun of Japan
Toyotomi Hideyoshi
The predecessor of Tokugawa; succeeded Nobunaga Oda and laid the foundations of the Tokugawa shogunate
A moral philosopher who advocated submission and proper relationships in order to achieve peace and harmony
Isoroku Yamamoto
Chief Japanese admiral during World War II; masterminded the Pearl Harbor attack
Jiang Qing
Wife of Mao Zedong and leader of the Gang of Four
Chiang Kai-shek
Principal ruler of Nationalist China and mortal enemy of Mao Zedong
Hu Yaobang
A top leader of China during the Deng period; died under suspicious circumstances in disgrace for being too radical a reformer
Zhao Ziyang
Successor of Hu Yaobang as Premier; a reformer who was ousted for being too favorably toward the protestors of Tiananmen Square
Park Chung Hee
A military dictator of South Korea who got the economy rolling
Chun Doo Hwan
A South Korean dictator, successor of Park Chung Hee; responsible for the Gwangju massacre
Kim Dae Jung
An important opposition South Korean politician who opposed Park Chung Hee almost at the cost of his life; after the democratic reforms, he eventually became president
Shigeru Yoshida
First prime minister of Japan after World War II
Hong Xiuquan
Leader of the Taiping cult
Lin Zexu
A Qing commissioner sent by the emperor to stop the opium trade
Empress Cixi
The dowager empress who encouraged and promoted the Boxer rebellion