The present study reported data on phonological awareness, morphological awareness, and Chinese literacy skills of 294 children from an 8‐year longitudinal study. Results showed that mainland Chinese children's preliterate syllable awareness at ages 4 to 6 years uniquely predicted post‐literate morphological awareness at ages 7 to 10 years. Preliterate syllable awareness directly contributed to character reading and writing at age 11 years, while post‐literate phonemic awareness predicted only character reading at age 11 years. In addition, preliterate syllable and morphological awareness at ages 4 to 6 years had indirect effects on character reading and writing, reading fluency, and reading comprehension at age 11 years, through post‐literate morphological awareness at ages 7 to 10 years. Findings underscore the significant role of syllable awareness in Chinese character reading and writing, and the importance of morphological awareness in character‐level processing and high‐level literacy skills. More importantly, our results suggest the unique relation of syllable awareness and morphological awareness in Chinese as they focus on the same unit, which is also likely to map directly onto a character, the basic unit for high‐level Chinese reading skills. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.