||We used simple and explicit methods, as well as improved datasets for climate, crop phenology and yields, to address the association between variability in crop yields and climate anomalies in China from 1980 to 2008. We identified the most favourable and unfavourable climate conditions and the optimum temperatures for crop productivity in different regions of China. We found that the simultaneous occurrence of high temperatures, low precipitation and high solar radiation was unfavourable for wheat, maize and soybean productivity in large portions of northern, northwestern and northeastern China; this was because of droughts induced by warming or an increase in solar radiation. These climate anomalies could cause yield losses of up to 50 % for wheat, maize and soybeans in the arid and semi-arid regions of China. High precipitation and low solar radiation were unfavourable for crop productivity throughout southeastern China and could cause yield losses of approximately 20 % for rice and 50 % for wheat and maize. High temperatures were unfavourable for rice productivity in southwestern China because they induced heat stress, which could cause rice yield losses of approximately 20 %. In contrast, high temperatures and low precipitation were favourable for rice productivity in northeastern and eastern China. We found that the optimum temperatures for high yields were crop specific and had an explicit spatial pattern. These findings improve our understanding of the impacts of extreme climate events on agricultural production in different regions of China.