Although studies on carbon burial in lake sediments have shown that lakes are disproportionately important carbon sinks, many studies on gaseous carbon exchange across the water-air interface have demonstrated that lakes are supersaturated with CO(2) and CH(4) causing a net release of CO(2) and CH(4) to the atmosphere. In order to more accurately estimate the net carbon source/sink function of lake ecosystems, a more comprehensive carbon budget is needed, especially for gaseous carbon exchange across the water-air interface. Using two methods, overall mass balance and gas exchange and carbon burial balance, we assessed the carbon source/sink function of Lake Donghu, a subtropical, eutrophic lake, from April 2003 to March 2004. With the overall mass balance calculations, total carbon input was 14 905 t, total carbon output was 4950 t, and net carbon budget was +9955 t, suggesting that Lake Donghu was a great carbon sink. For the gas exchange and carbon burial balance, gaseous carbon (CO(2) and CH(4)) emission across the water-air interface totaled 752 t while carbon burial in the lake sediment was 9477 t. The ratio of carbon emission into the atmosphere to carbon burial into the sediment was only 0.08. This low ratio indicates that Lake Donghu is a great carbon sink. Results showed good agreement between the two methods with both showing Lake Donghu to be a great carbon sink. This results from the high primary production of Lake Donghu, substantive allochthonous carbon inputs and intensive anthropogenic activity. Gaseous carbon emission accounted for about 15% of the total carbon output, indicating that the total output would be underestimated without including gaseous carbon exchange.