Depressive symptoms are common in children and adolescents. The prevalence of depressive symptoms in children and adolescents in China vary significantly across studies. A meta-analysis of the prevalence of depressive symptoms in children and adolescents in China was conducted. Literature search was performed in both English (PubMed, PsycINFO and EMBASE) and Chinese (China National Knowledge Internet, WANFANG Data and SinoMed) databases. Random-effects model was used to synthesize the prevalence of depressive symptoms. Eighteen studies covering 29,626 participants were identified and analyzed. All these studies used the same measurement to identify depressive symptoms. The reported point prevalence of depressive symptoms ranged between 4% and 41% in the studies; the pooled prevalence of depressive symptoms was 19.85% (95% confidence interval: 14.75%–24.96%). In the subgroup analyses the prevalence of depressive symptoms was significantly associated with the region where the study was conducted: 17.8% in eastern, 23.7% in central, 22.7% in western, and 14.5% in northeast regions of China (P < 0.001). Considering the adverse impact of depressive symptoms on health outcomes, regular screening and effective interventions should be implemented in this population.