In yuan terms, imports jump 19.5% and exports by 6.9%.
The world's second biggest economy recorded a trade surplus of CNY193 billion (USD29.3 billion), down from CNY 286.5 billion in August.
The upbeat readings will be welcome new for Beijing ahead of a twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress next week, at which President Xi Jinping is expected to tighten his grip on power and set out the government's top political and economic priorities for the next five years.
The gain was stronger than the most optimistic forecast in a Reuters analysts poll.
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Exports increased 12.4 percent to 11.16 trillion yuan, while imports surged 22.3 percent to 9.13 trillion yuan, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said.
"China's imports and exports remained sound and steady and witnessed positive changes in the first three quarters", the GAC said in a statement.
Exports rose 8.1%, below forecasts of 8.8% but handily beating August's 5.5%.
The trade surplus narrowed in September to $28.47 billion from almost $42 billion the previous month, falling short of expectations for a $37.3 billion surplus.
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Trade figures in dollars will be released later in the day. Imports rose 18.7 percent to $169.8 billion, an improvement from the previous month's 13.3 percent.
China's imports from North Korea fell for a seventh straight month in September, dropping 37.9% year-on-year as Beijing implemented the latest United Nations trade sanctions aimed at persuading Pyongyang to rein in its nuclear and missile programmes.
A rebound in China's exports this year has helped support Chinese economic growth this year.
Customs spokesman Huang Songping did not provide the trade values for September, but said imports of coal, iron ore and apparel from North Korea all declined in the month, and there were no imports of seafood.
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