Nasopharyngeal airway should be placed to reach the tongue base without contact with the epiglottis. The correct length of the nasopharyngeal airway in Chinese adults was estimated in seventy-three surgical patients under general anesthesia (30 males and 43 females, aged 18-82 yr). Measurements were performed with a soft, uncuffed, ID 6.0 mm endotracheal tube (Portex) introduced through the nasopharyngeal passage. The proper tip placement of the tube was evaluated under direct laryngoscopy. The Nostril-epiglottis distance (N-E distance) is 15.31 +/- 1.09 cm (mean +/- SD) for all cases, 16.03 +/- 1.04 cm for male cases and 14.97 +/- 0.95 cm for female cases. There are correlation between the N-E distance and the height (p less than 0.001, r = 0.41), and between the N-E distance and the N-A distance (The distance from nose tip to mandibular angle) (p less than 0.004, r = 0.324). Linear regression analysis relating the N-E distance to the height and the N-E distance to the N-A distance were also statistically significant (p less than 0.001 and p less than 0.01, respectively).