Despite its long coastline, relatively little is known about mainland China’s intertidal communities compared to Europe and the United States, although more is known from Taiwan and Hong Kong. In general, northern areas are dominated by temperate species, with tropical species in the south and subtropical areas supporting a diversity of species from both regions. Studies of intertidal systems are in their infancy, developing since the 1930s and particularly after the 1960s with a primary focus on taxonomy and distribution patterns. While species lists and distributions have been available for mainland China since the 1930s, and more recently Taiwan and Hong Kong, many of these are outdated and recent approaches reveal many cryptic species complexes. Basic information of spatial and temporal patterns is available, but is focussed on few locations, while larger-scale or temporally replicated studies are rare, with Hong Kong being an exception. As a result, we know a lot about a few small areas, and have often used this to generalise much larger areas. This bias is even more true for studies investigating intertidal processes. Clearly, this is an under-studied region and, given the unprecedented anthropogenic pressures it faces, we may already be documenting a highly degraded intertidal system.