The world's No.2 economy brought in 27.81 million tonnes of coal last month, up 11.5 percent from 24.91 million the year before, the General Administration of Customs said. That compared with 22.74 million tonnes in December.
The cold snap pushed daily coal consumption at utilities to a record seasonal-high of 850,0000 tonnes as of Feb. 2, while inventories at power plants fell to a critical level of less than 15 days of consumption, data from consultants Wind showed.
In late January, four of China's top utilities warned of heating and electricity shortages due to tight supplies of coal.
"Foreign coal prices are more competitive as coal prices in China rallied on capacity reduction," said Cheng Gong, analyst at China National Coal Association.
Beijing has vowed to phase out all small coal mines with capacity below 90,000 tonnes across the country, but some regions have raised the threshold to below 150,000 tonnes to further streamline the industry.
Shanxi, the country's coal mining hub, has ordered big coal mines to shorten or cancel staff holidays during Lunar New Year.
Meanwhile, some coal imports have been stranded due to insufficient rail freight capacity in the wake of the snowy conditions.
The heating season typically ends in mid-March in northern China.