The last study on n-alkanes in surface sediments of Taihu Lake was in 2000, only 13 surface sediment samples were analysed, in order to have a comprehensive and up-to-date understanding of n-alkanes in the surface sediments of Taihu Lake, 41 surface sediment samples were analyzed by GC-MS. C10 to C37 were detected, the total concentrations of n-alkanes ranged from 2109 ng g−1 to 9096 ng g−1 (dry weight). There was strong odd carbon predominance in long chain n-alkanes and even carbon predominance in short chain n-alkanes. When this finding was combined with the analysis results of wax n-alkanes (WaxCn), carbon preference index (CPI), unresolved complex mixture (UCM), hopanes and steranes, it was considered that the long chain n-alkanes were mainly from terrigenous higher plants, and that the short chain n-alkanes mainly originated from bacteria and algae in the lake, compared with previous studies, there were no obvious anthropogenic petrogenic inputs. Terrestrial and aquatic hydrocarbons ratio (TAR) and C21−/C25+ indicated that terrigenous input was higher than aquatic sources and the nearshore n-alkanes were mainly from land-derived sources. Moreover, the distribution of short chain n-alkanes presented a relatively uniform pattern, while the long chain n-alkanes presented a trend that concentrations dropped from nearshore places to the middle of lake.