The present study was conducted to investigate the effects of chitosan (CS)-Zn on intestinal morphology, mucosal epithelial cell apoptosis and mucosal immune function in weanling pigs. A total of 150 weanling barrows with a body weight of 7·2 kg were randomly allocated into five groups. A basal diet without Zn supplementation was used as the control and other four groups were fed the control diet supplemented with 50 or 100 mg/kg of Zn as CS-Zn, 100 mg/kg of Zn as ZnSO4 and 3000 mg/kg of Zn as ZnO, respectively. The feeding trial lasted for 28 d. The results showed that serum diamine oxidase activities, d-lactate levels and endotoxin contents were lower in pigs fed dietary 100 mg/kg of Zn as CS-Zn or 3000 mg/kg of Zn as ZnO than in pigs fed the control or 100 mg Zn/kg as ZnSO4 diet. The ratios of the villus height:crypt depth of the duodenum, jejunum and ileum were higher in pigs that received 100 mg/kg of Zn as CS-Zn or a high level of Zn as ZnO than in pigs fed the control diet. Moreover, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate-biotin nick end labelling (TUNEL)-stained ileal epithelial cells were found in the control group, and apoptotic cells did not appear prominently in pigs that received the 100 mg/kg of CS-Zn or ZnO diet. Secretory IgA concentration in ileal mucus was increased in the dietary group that received 100 mg/kg of CS-Zn or ZnO. These results indicated that dietary 100 mg CS-Zn/kg had similar biological effects to dietary 3000 mg ZnO/kg on intestinal morphology, mucosal epithelial cell apoptosis and mucosal immune function.