OBJECTIVES The aim of this study is to compare the quantity and quality of scientific publications in transplantation fields that were written by researchers from Mainland China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan in the East Asia region. SETTINGS East Asia. PARTICIPANTS AND OUTCOME MEASURES Articles except editorials, conference abstracts, letters, news and corrections published in 25 transplantation journals from 2006 to 2015 were screened with the Web of Science database. The number of total and annual articles, article types (study design and transplantation site), impact factor, citations and articles in the high-impact journals was determined to assess the quantity and quality of transplantation research from East Asia. The correlation of socioeconomic factors and annual publications was also analysed. RESULTS From 2006 to 2015, there were 47 141 articles published in transplantation journals, of which researchers from Japan published 3694 articles, followed by Mainland China, South Korea and Taiwan with 2778, 1643 and 951 articles, respectively. Similar trends were observed in accumulated impact factor, accumulated citations, articles in the high-impact journals and articles on transplantation site. Publications from Japan had the highest average impact factor and citation, while those from Mainland China had the lowest. Additionally, in terms of study design, authors from Mainland China contributed to most clinical trials and randomised controlled trials, but authors from Japan contributed to most case reports. The annual numbers of articles from Mainland China and South Korea increased linearly (p<0.05), but those from Japan and Taiwan remained stable for the period studied. The annual numbers of articles from Mainland China and South Korea were positively correlated with gross domestic product (p<0.05). CONCLUSIONS Transplantation research productivity in East Asia is highly skewed, with gross domestic product having a significant positive correlation. Mainland China still lags far behind Japan in most bibliometric indicators; thus, there is vast room for improvement.