Qinghai Lake, situated on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, is the largest lake in China. In this study, the water and sediment quality were investigated in Qinghai Lake, three sublakes, and five major tributaries. Both Na+ and Cl- were found to be the major ions present in Qinghai Lake and the three sublakes, while Ca2+ and HCO3- dominated the tributaries. Compared with historical data from the 1960s, the concentrations of NH4 (+), NO3 (-), and soluble reactive silica have increased considerably, likely caused by increased human activities in the area. Compared to the historical data, chemical oxygen demand has increased and lake water transparency has decreased, likely related to an increase in nutrient levels. Relatively high concentrations of total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) were observed in Qinghai Lake sediments, although P fraction types and low water concentrations of these two indicate low possibility of transfer into the water column. The ratios of C/N suggest that the organic matter in the sediments are primarily from autochthonous sources. TN and total organic carbon in the sediment cores increased slowly up the core while TP and total inorganic carbon have been fairly constant.