Daily precipitation data from 34 weather stations in Northeast China from 1960 to 2008 are used to examine trends in the occurrence of dry days and prolonged dry episodes. Trends in the mean length and frequency of prolonged dry episodes, as well as the number of dry days within prolonged dry episodes (DDPDE), are computed regionally and for individual stations at the threshold levels of 1 and 2 mm day−1. Regionally, the number of dry days is increasing in the summer half-year and decreasing in the winter half-year. DDPDE is significantly increasing in the summer half-year; the increased frequency of dry spells has the greatest effect. The mean length of prolonged dry episodes in the winter half-year has decreased significantly. Our results indicate that neither the frequency nor the mean length of prolonged dry episodes, alone, can adequately describe the short-term dry conditions of an area. Multiple characteristics of dry spells, including frequency, length, and the number of DDPDE should be considered. DDPDE is a function of both the frequency and length of dry episodes, but may be more influenced by one or the other characteristics of dry spells, depending on the season or region.