The spatial-temporal characteristics of mean annual daily maximum precipitation events in the upper Yangtze River basin in China are examined using a framework termed precipitation regional extreme mapping (PREM). The framework consists of regional analyses and mapping methods, which have the capability to assess the presence or absence of climate change. The findings confirm the homogeneous regions identified by Wang (2002) using a heterogeneity measure, where all three regions have heterogeneity less than 1.0. The Pearson type III (PE3) distribution was found to be acceptable for all three regions, while the generalized extreme-value distribution performs better than PE3 for Region I (eastern portion of the upper Yangtze basin). Two indices, root mean square error and mean bias, were used to access the performance of the extreme map, and the results show that the map of extreme can predict precipitation for ungauged regions with acceptable accuracy. The regional frequency maps were used in conjunction with the Student's t-test to identify the statistical significance of changes of extremes in precipitation. Results indicate that there have been no significant changes in maximum daily precipitation magnitudes over the past four decades, a finding that is valuable for the safe planning of major hydraulic projects and the management and planning of water resources in the upper Yangtze River basin. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.