The objective of this study was to compare the sensitivity and specificity of a new method for self-sampling for high risk human papillomavirus (HPV) with direct sampling and liquid based cervical cytology. In Shanxi Province, China, 8,497 women (ages 27–56) underwent a self-sample for HPV using a conical-shaped brush placed into the upper vagina and rotated. Three to sixteen months later the women were screened with liquid-based cytology and direct HPV tests. Subjects with any abnormal test underwent colposcopy and multiple biopsies. Mean age was 40.9 years. 4.4 percent of subjects had ≥CIN II, 26% a positive self-sample and 24% a positive direct test for HPV. The sensitivity for detection of ≥CIN II was 87.5% for self-sampling, and 96.8% for the direct test (P < 0.001). The specificity was 77.2% for the self-sample and 79.7% for the direct test. With an abnormal Pap defined as ASCUS or greater the sensitivity of the Pap for the detection of >CIN II was 88.3% and the specificity was 81.2%. We conclude that self-sampling for HPV is less sensitive for >CIN II than the direct test, but similar to liquid based cytology.