Abstract The structure and dynamics of periphytic algae in Jinyang Lake, the largest man-made lake in Taiyuan, Shanxi, have been studied by examining the periphytic algae samples collected from four sampling stations, during March 2006 to February 2007. In total, 227 species of periphytic algae (including varieties), belonging to three divisions, 27 families, 62 genera, have been identified. Diatoms were the dominant periphytic algae group. Taken the Shannon–Weaver, Margalef and Simpson diversity index together, it showed obvious temporal and spatial dynamics among different seasons and different sampling stations. The highest periphytic community structure evenness appeared at sampling station I in spring, summer and autumn, while at sampling station III in winter. The average biomass of periphytic algae varied from seasons. Our data showed that major factors affecting the periphytic algae in Jinyang Lake was water temperature, nutrient levels as well as human activities. In addition, the main effect caused by thermal power plant has been discussed.