Three alternate China-wide temperature composites covering the last 2000 years were established by combining multiple paleoclimate proxy records obtained from ice cores, tree rings, lake sediments and historical documents. Five periods of temperature variation can be identified: a warm stage in AD 0–240, a cold interval between AD 240 and 800, a return to warm conditions from AD 800–1400, including the Medieval Warm Period between AD 800–1100, the cool Little Ice Age period between 1400–1920, and the present warm stage since 1920. Regional temperature variation is found during AD 800–1100, when warm conditions occurred in Eastern China and in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau and in AD 1150–1380, when the southern Tibetan Plateau experienced a warm interval. In contrast, evidence for cool conditions during the LIA is more consistent among the proxy records. The temperature reconstructions for China and the Northern Hemisphere show good agreement over the past millennium.