Emission characterization of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from residential combustion of crop residues, woody material, coal, and biomass pellets in domestic stoves in rural China are compared in term of emission factors (EFs), influencing factors, composition profiles, isomer ratios and phase distributions. The EFs of PAHs vary by 2 orders of magnitude among fuel types suggesting that a detailed fuel categorization is useful in the development of an emission inventory and potential in emission abatement of PAHs by replacing dirty fuels with relatively cleaner ones. The influence of fuel moisture in biomass burning is nonlinear. Biofuels with very low moisture display relatively high emissions as do fuels with very high moisture. Bituminous coals and brushwood yield relatively large fractions of high molecular PAHs. The emission factor of benzo(a)pyrene equivalent quantity for raw bituminous coal is as high as 52 mg/kg, which is 1-2 orders of magnitude higher than the other fuels. For source diagnosis, high molecular weight isomers are more informative than low molecular weight ones and multiple ratios could be used together whenever possible.