Designing high-performance piezoelectric materials based on atomic-scale calculations is highly desired in recent years, following the understanding of the structure-property relationship of state-of-the-art piezoelectric materials. Previous mesoscale simulations showed that local structural heterogeneity plays an important role in the piezoelectric property of ferroelectrics; that is, larger structural heterogeneity leads to higher piezoelectricity. In this Rapid Communication, by combining first-principles calculations and experimental characterizations, we explored the atomic-scale origin of the high piezoelectricity for samarium-doped Pb(Mg1/3Nb2/3)O3-PbTiO3 (PMN-PT) ceramics, which possesses the highest piezoelectric d33 of ∼1500pCN-1 among all known piezoelectric ceramics. The impacts of various dopants on local structure and piezoelectric properties of PMN-PT ceramics were investigated in terms of the effective ionic radius and cation valence. Our results show that A-site dopants with a valence of 3+ are more effective to produce local structural heterogeneity in PMN-PT when compared with the A-site dopants with a valence of 2+, and a smaller dopant size leads to a larger variation of local structure. According to this study, the outstanding piezoelectricity in Sm-doped PMN-PT ceramics is attributed to the fact that Sm3+ is the smallest ions that can entirely go to the A site of PMN-PT rather than the B site. The present work may benefit the design of high-performance piezoelectric materials based on the concept of local structural engineering.