Many permafrost maps in China have been compiled since the early 1960s. The scales of these maps range from the local (1:600 000) to the regional scale (1:10 000 000). The permafrost classification systems differ among these maps. The indices for permafrost classification used in these mapping projects include spatial continuity (areal extent) and thickness of the permafrost, air and ground temperatures and ground -ice content. All of those data have been retrieved, digitised and published in the Environmental and Ecological Science Data Center for West China. These maps represent the best understanding at the time regarding the distribution of permafrost in China and its changes over the past century. An updated map of permafrost in China, including frozen ground area, is also provided. The total area of permafrost in China is estimated at ~ 1.59 × 106 km2 (glaciers and lakes excluded), and the area of seasonally frozen ground (excluding instantaneous frozen ground) is ~ 5.36 × 106 km2. The total area of high-altitude (plateau and mountain) permafrost in China is ~ 1.35 × 106 km2, the area of mountain permafrost is ~ 0.30 × 106 km2 and the area of plateau permafrost is ~ 1.05 × 106 km2. The latitudinal permafrost is located in the northern part of northeastern China, and its area is ~ 0.24 × 106 km2. Additionally, some suggestions are proposed for future mapping of permafrost in China. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.