Private diaries are important sources of historical data for research on climate change. Their advantages include a high veracity and reliability, accurate time and location information, a high temporal resolution, seasonal integrity, and rich content. In particular, these data are suitable for reconstructing short-term, high-resolution climate series and extreme climatic events. Through a case study of Yunshan Diary, authored by Bi Guo of the Yuan dynasty of China, this article demonstrates how to delve into climate information in diaries, including species distribution records, phenological records, daily weather descriptions and personal experiences of meteorological conditions. In addition, this article considers how to use these records, supplemented by other data, to reconstruct climate change and extreme climatic events on various timescales, from multidecadal to annual or daily. The study of Yunshan Diary finds that there was a relatively low amount of precipitation in central and southern Jiangsu Province in the summer of 1309; the winter of 1308–1309 was abnormally cold in the Taihu Lake basin. In the early 14th century at the latest, the climate in eastern China had begun to turn cold, which reflects the transition from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age.