Abstract Phosphine emission fluxes from paddy fields, phosphine ambient levels in air, and the vertical profile of matrix-bound phosphine in soil have been measured throughout the growing season of rice in Beijing, China. It was found that both the seasonal and diurnal emission fluxes and ambient levels fluctuate significantly. During the drainage period, phosphine released from the soil with the highest diurnal average flux on the first period of drainage (approx. 17.7 ng m −2 h −1), whereas its highest ambient level (approx. 250 ng m −3) occurred at 06.00 h. During the flooded period, phosphine emission was low, and the peaks of phosphine emissions occurred at midnight. The average flux of PH 3 emission for the whole season was found to be approximately 1.78 ng m −2 h −1. The mass fraction of matrix-bound phosphine is approximately 0.18∼1.42×10 −7 (m/m) part of organic phosphorus or 3.4∼9.2×10 −9 (m/m) part of total phosphorus in paddy soil. The amount of phosphine emitted to the atmosphere was only a small fraction of the phosphine that remained in the soil in the matrix-bound form. Soil serves both as the source and the sink of PH 3.