The attack at Kunming train station in China's southwestern Yunnan province was described by state television as a "violent terror attack" that was "organised and premeditated."
At least 28 people have been killed and 113 wounded in the mass stabbing at one of China's busiest railway stations.
According to eye witness reports, a group of people armed with knives and dressed all in black, entered the train station at about 9pm and indiscriminately began attacking travellers.
Speaking to Xinhua news agency, a local resident, Yang Haifei, described a scene of carnage as unsuspecting travellers were cut down in their tracks.
Haifei who, sustained injuries to his chest and back was buying a ticket at the time of the attack.
"I saw a person come straight at me with a long knife and I ran away with everyone," he said, adding that some people 'just fell on the ground'.
Graphic images from the scene have been circulating via Chinese social media, showing bodies lying in pools of blood, strewn across the station concourse.
Unconfirmed reports suggest police shot and killed five attackers after a standoff, while others were detained. Police have not named any of the suspects.
Hours after the attack, medics were still treating the victims, many of whom were transported to local hospitals.
Domestic security chief Meng Jianzhu, one of China's top politicians, was reportedly travelling to the Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan province.
The station, which opened in 1958, is one of the largest in south west China with up to 75,000 passengers passing through it daily.
Confirming the numbers of dead and injured, Xinhua said the attack was one of the deadliest in recent Chinese history.
China has been plagued by a series of mass, random stabbings since 2010 when attacks on several schools culminated in the massacre of 22 children and an elderly woman outside a primary school in Henan province in December 2012.
In June last year, knife wielding gangs set upon a police station and local government building in western China.
While some of the incidents were carried out by individuals acting alone, others have been attributed to organised groups in protest at the Chinese state.
Islamist extremists operating in the far western region of Xinjiang, have been deemed culpable for the attacks in Xinjiang, which is home to the Muslim Uighur people. There is unrest among many Uighurs at restrictions laid down by the Chinese authorities on their culture and religion.
The attack comes as China gears up for the annual meeting of parliament, which opens in Beijing on Wednesday (5 February).
The train station attack is still being investigated and it is not known if it is the actions of a dissident group.