The change in spring phenology is recognized to exert a major influence on carbon balance dynamics in temperate ecosystems. Over the past several decades, several studies focused on shifts in spring phenology; however, large uncertainties still exist, and one understudied source could be the method implemented in retrieving satellite-derived spring phenology. To account for this potential uncertainty, we conducted a multimethod investigation to quantify changes in vegetation green-up date from 1982 to 2010 over temperate China, and to characterize climatic controls on spring phenology. Over temperate China, the five methods estimated that the vegetation green-up onset date advanced, on average, at a rate of 1.3 ± 0.6 days per decade (ranging from 0.4 to 1.9 days per decade) over the last 29 years. Moreover, the sign of the trends in vegetation green-up date derived from the five methods were broadly consistent spatially and for different vegetation types, but with large differences in the magnitude of the trend. The large intermethod variance was notably observed in arid and semiarid vegetation types. Our results also showed that change in vegetation green-up date is more closely correlated with temperature than with precipitation. However, the temperature sensitivity of spring vegetation green-up date became higher as precipitation increased, implying that precipitation is an important regulator of the response of vegetation spring phenology to change in temperature. This intricate linkage between spring phenology and precipitation must be taken into account in current phenological models which are mostly driven by temperature.