This study investigates the incidence, recurrence, and risk factors of febrile seizures in southern Chinese children. A retrospective study of a 5-year period (March 1998 through February 2003) was conducted for all children admitted with first febrile seizure to a university teaching hospital of Hong Kong, serving a population of 31,700 under 6 years. A total of 565 Chinese children (329 males, 236 females) were identified with mean age of 2.1 +/- 1.1 years. The annual incidence was 0.35%. Among them 16% (91/565) had complex febrile seizures. Family history of febrile and afebrile seizures was present in 17.5% and 2.7% respectively. The mean follow-up period was 2.33 +/- 1.69 years. Altogether 103 children (18%) had recurrence, and the cumulative rates by 1, 2, and 3 years were 12.7%, 18.7%, and 20.5% respectively. Three significant factors were identified for higher risk of recurrence: early age of onset, family history of febrile seizure, and complex febrile seizure. The incidence of first febrile seizure in Chinese children is low compared with the Western world and relatively similar to mainland China. Recurrence is also lower despite similarities in the predictive factors. Further epidemiologic and genetic studies will be necessary to confirm and explain this interethnic variation.