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How to Read China Train Tickets

There are two kinds of train tickets in China: red paper and blue magnetic. Although different in color, they have not much difference in how they show information. Let’s read them from top to bottom and left to right.

Ticket Number

This is in red and located on the top left corner, consisting of both letters and digits. Each ticket has its own number and it seldom duplicates others.

Boarding Gate

This is shown on the top right corner. Boarding gates in some of the earlier-built stations like Xian Railway Station are not numbered, hence this information will not be shown, like the below blue one.
China Railway Ticket
China Train Ticket

Departure and Arrival Stations

These are the largest characters on the whole ticket, with departure station on the left and arrival station on the right. The English letters below them are their Chinese pronunciations in pinyin.

In China, a railway station is usually named after the city, such as ‘西安(Xian)站(railway station)’. When the city has more than one station, any station built later is named as ‘city name+location of the station in that city’, like ‘北京(Beijing)南(south)站(railway station)’. The locations used in station names are usually ‘东(east)’, ‘西(west)’, ‘南(south)’, and ‘北(north)’, while a few are local well-known places like Shanghai Hongqiao and Luoyang Lonegmen.

Train Number

This is placed between the departure station and arrival station, made up of several digits or an English letter prefix, which refers to different train types.

Departure Date and Time

These are located in the fourth row on the left, in the order of year/month/date/hour/minute. Usually, passengers are allowed to enter the railway terminal at most 2 hours before departure; the boarding gates are opened 30 minutes before departure and closed 5 minutes before.

Carriage Number and Seat/Berth Number

These are to the right of departure date and time, with carriage number first. China railway carriages are numbered with digits, while a few have a prefix ‘加(addtion)’, meaning the carriage is added due to an excess of passengers. This usually happens during peak travel seasons like Spring Festival Travel Rush.

Inside normal trains, seats are numbered with digits while in high speed ones, seats are numbered with digits plus an English letter.

Berths inside the carriages are identified by ‘digits+location’, like 04号上铺, meaning no.04 upper berth. Usually, there are上铺(upper berth), 中铺(middle berth), and下铺(lower berth) inside sleeper carriages.


This is below the carriage and seat/berth numbers.
高级软卧: Luxury Soft Sleeper 软卧: Soft Sleeper 硬卧: Hard Sleeper
商务座: Business Class Seat 特等座: VIP Class Seat 一等座: First Class Seat
二等座: Second Class Seat 软座: Soft Seat 硬座: Hard Seat
无座: Standing (no berth or seat)


This is on the left side of the fifth row, in units of the Chinese currency.

Below it, the Chinese sentence says: Permission only for the specific train of the printed date and time.

Passenger’s Certificate Number and Name

These are in the seventh row with the passenger’s real certificate number on the left and his name behind it.


In the lower left, there are two Chinese sentences in a dotted line box, advertising the passenger ticket booking (12306.cn) and freight transport service (95306.cn) of the China Railway Corporation.

Printing City

This is in the last row in Chinese characters, telling in which city the ticket was printed.

To its left, is a code made up of digits and English letters. It is used to verify the authenticity of the ticket, as does the two-dimensional code in the right bottom corner.

How to identify the authenticity of a ticket?

1. Watermark: The watermark must be printed clearly.
2. Feel: An authentic one will be smooth to the touch. Some fake ones may feel rough, and their printing may rub off or not be printed neatly.
3. Flexibility: Roll the ticket up and twist it. An authentic one will resume its original shape.
4. Comparison: Compare the ticket with an authentic one you already have.
5. Code: Every ticket has a set of codes at the top left (e.g. B023489 in the blue sample). You could find a corresponding set of codes at the bottom left (e.g. 36010311510706B023489).
6. Anti-fake Code: On the lower right, there is an anti-fake two-dimensional code which records train no. and passenger’s information.
Further Reading:
 Useful Chinese Phrases for Train Travel