Top 20 richest people in Chinese history

In my former post “Top 6 richest people in Chinese history,” I listed the 6 richest Chinese people ever in Chinese history. Here is another list of 20 richest during Chinese feudal society from 2,000 years ago to the end of Qing Dynasty in 1911.

1. Fan Li 范蠡

Fan Li was an ancient Chinese advisor in the state of Yue in the Spring and Autumn Period. He became a successful businessman in his later years and was famous as a rich person.

2. Zi Gong 子贡

Zi Gong (born 520 BCE) was one of the ten wise disciples of Confucius. Zi Gong was a successful and rich entrepreneur who mainly operated in the region of the states of Cao and Lu. He was a clear and intelligent person and was admired by Confucius for his spirit and eloquence.

3 Bai Gui 白圭

Bai Gui was a famous businessman in Luoyang city during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). It was said that he was a student of Guiguzi (an ancient Chinese philosopher from the same period). According to the official History of the Former Han Dynasty, Bai was the originator of business and trade theories.

4. Zhuo Shi 卓氏

Zhuo Shi lived in Warring States period. He was the first “King of Steel” in Chinese history.  He was the ancestor of Zhuo Wangsun, who was the father-in-law of famous literati Simaxiangru in Han Dynasty.

5. Lü Buwei 吕不韦

Lü Buwei (bron in 253 BCE) was was Counselor-in-chief of the state of Qin during the Warring States period(5th cent-221 BCE). He was originally a merchant in Handan city, selling jades, pearls and other precious stones. He accumulated a tremendous fortune.

6. Widow Qing 寡妇清

Widow Qing lived in early Qin Dynasty. Her ancestors became rich for digging “elixir.” She was once rewarded by Emperor Qin Shihuang.

7. Deng Tong 邓通

Deng Tong was an official of the early Former Han period (206 BCE-8 CE). Under Emperor Wen he rose to Senior Grand Master and was presented by the emperor with precious gifts and was granted to exploit the revenue of a copper mine in Sichuan. He was even granted the permission to coin his own money that circulated through the whole empire. Deng Tong was probably the richest individual of early Han China.

8. Dong Xian 董贤

Dong Xian (23 BC(?) – 1 BC) was a Han Dynasty politician. Within a few years, he rose from obscurity as a minor official to being the most powerful and rich official in the imperial administration of Emperor Ai.

9. Liang Ji 梁冀

Liang Ji (died 159 BCE) was a powerful minister of the mid-Later Han period (25-220 CE). Liang Ji inherited the post of General-in-chief from his father and was the most powerful person of the empire. His family property were about 3 million money which was the half of the country’s tax a year.

10. Shi Chong 石崇
Shi Chong was a famous rich man in the Western Jin Dynasty. His source of wealth were almost from robbing travelling traders when he was the official of Jingzhou.

11. Wu Sansi 武三思

Wu Sansi (died August 7, 707) was a chancellor during the reign of Wu Zetian and subsequently. He became very rich for selling ranks and titles.

12. Cai Jing 蔡京

Cai Jing was a government official and calligrapher in Northern Song Dynasty. He was a traitor prime minister in the Northern Song. Cai Jing was unpopular among common people and led to corruption in the government.

13. Jia Sidao 贾似道

Jia Sidao (1213–1275) was a chancellor during the late Song Dynasty. He dominated the Song court from 1260 to 1273 and became wealthy for his corruption.

14. Genghis Khan 成吉思汗

If wealth were measured by lands conquered, Genghis Khan (1162-1227) would rank as one of the wealthiest people ever. He began his career by uniting feuding Mongol tribes and then went on to seize almost five million square miles covering what is now China, Iran, Iraq, Burma, Vietnam, and most of Korea and Russia.

15. Shen Wansan 沈万三

Shen Wansan was a businessman during the beginning of Ming Dynasty. Shen used to be one of the richest men at the area of south of the Yangtze river by doing foreign commerce and he took the most advantage of the convenient waterway in Suzhou. Shen lived in the period of the end of Yuan Dynasty and the beginning of Ming Dynasty. Shen helped first Ming Dynasty emperor Zhu Yuanzhang to build one third of the wall of the capital Nanjing.

16. Yan Song 严嵩

Yan Song (1480–1567) was a corrupt Ming Dynasty Chinese official, who dominated the Ming government for two decades as Grand Secretary during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor.

17. Liu Jin 刘瑾

Liu Jin was a well-known Chinese eunuch in Chinese Ming Dynasty. Liu was one of the most corrupt officials in Chinese history. He was the leader of the “Eight Tigers”, a powerful group of eunuchs who controlled the imperial court.

18. He Shen  和绅

He Shen was an official of the Qing Dynasty who was favoured by the Qianlong Emperor. He was one of the most corrupt officials in Chinese history. His widespread corruption and nepotism was the start of a century that led to the downfall of the Qing Dynasty. His family property is about 10-year income of the government.

19. Hu Xueyan 胡雪岩

Hu Xueyan (1823-1885) was one of the richest and most famous businessmen during the 1870s and 1880s in Qing Dynasty. He was so rich and powerful that he provided funds for the general to crush the rebellion in Yili of Xijiang, and he also played a crucial part in the Westernization Movement.

20. Wu Bingjian 伍秉鉴

Wu Bingjian(1769-1843), known to westerners as ‘Howqua’, was a ‘red’ merchant. The Chinese government authorised him to trade with Europeans in Canton in the early 19th century. He was a public benefactor, donating 1.1 million silver dollars toward reparations after the First Opium War.

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