Artemisinin is an effective anti-malarial drug isolated from Artemisia annua L. (Chinese wormwood), but the content of artemisinin in A. annua is low. In the present study we explored the possibility of using genetic engineering to increase the artemisinin content of A. annua by suppressing the expression of SQS (squalene synthase), a key enzyme of sterol pathway (a pathway competitive with that of artemisinin biosynthesis) by means of a hairpin-RNA-mediated RNAi (RNA interference) technique. A total of 23 independent transgenic A. annua plants were obtained through Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation, which was confirmed by PCR and Southern-blot analyses. HPLC-evaporative light-scattering detection analysis showed that the artemisinin content of some transgenic plants was significantly increased, with the highest values reaching 31.4 mg/g dry weight, which is about 3.14-fold the content observed in untransformed control plants. Real-time reverse transcription–PCR analysis demonstrated that the expression of SQS was suppressed significantly, and GC–MS analysis showed that sterol was efficiently decreased in the transgenic plants. The present study demonstrated that genetic-engineering strategy of RNAi is an effective means of increasing artemisinin content in plants.