Mercury (Hg) is a toxic, persistent, and globally distributed pollutant due to its characteristic properties such as low melting and boiling points, conversion between chemical forms and participation in biological cycles. During combustion mercury in coal is almost totally emitted to the atmosphere. With a huge amount of coal consumed, coal combustion is one of the main anthropogenic sources of this element in the environment. In this study, Hg data of 1699 coal samples of China has been compiled, and the concentration, distribution, modes of occurrence, and the impact of Hg emissions on the environment are investigated. Most Chinese coals have Hg content in the range of 0.1 to 0.3??ppm, with an average of 0.19??ppm, which is slightly higher than the average Hg content of world coals and is close to that of the U.S. coals. The Hg content in coals varies in different coal basins, geological ages and coal ranks. The most likely mode of occurrences of Hg in high-sulfur and high Hg content coals is as solid solution in pyrite. But in low-sulfur coals, modes of occurrence of Hg are variable, and the organic-bound and sulfide-bound Hg may dominate. Silicate-bound Hg may be the main form in some coals because of magmatic intrusion. Mercury emissions during coal combustion have resulted in serious environmental contamination in China, particularly in the northeastern and southwestern China, where a high Hg content in the atmosphere occurs. ?? 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.