With immediate effect as of 30 December 2013, passengers who have purchased their train ticket online, and have registered it to their valid Chinese Resident ID card can use that at all ticket gates in place of a regular paper ticket. (Please note: only the current, second-generation “full” ID card — not a temporary card, or the first-generation card — will work). This is according to an announcement on the official 12306.cn Chinese Railway Customer Service Centre website. You must be a Chinese citizen with a Chinese Resident ID card and have registered on the 12306.cn website with your account, and you must book online.
This is only valid if you are travelling both to and from a station that supports the use of Chinese ID card as an e-ticket. These include all stations on the newly-opened Tianjin-Qinhuangdao HSR, as well as any and all station that already support e-tickets by ID card at ticket gates.
Specifically, they include the following stations: Junliangcheng North, Binhai North, Binhai, Tangshan, Luanhe, Beidaihe, and Qinhuangdao stations. Because Tianjin Railway Station has supported ID cards as e-tickets at the ticket gates, they should work at the main Tianjin station as well.
This only works if you have not picked up your ticket as a paper ticket. This will not work if you have purchased, as an e-ticket, a student ticket, or a ticket for handicapped veterans.
You will also have the option to print out a paper copy of your ticket at the end of the journey, either as proof of travel for reimbursement, or simply as a souvenir. Please note you are not permitted to gain platform or train access using that ticket. These tickets are usually available for up to 31 days after you have completed travel on that ticket. Contact railway staff if you have questions about this or other aspects of e-tickets on Chinese ID cards.
When using your ID card as an e-ticket at the ticket gate, make sure to touch it on the ticket gate machine (there should be labels visible). Do not insert your ID card into the slot usually reserved for paper tickets. Allow a few seconds for the machine to read your e-ticket and to clear you for boarding. If there are any issues, always seek assistance from ticket gate staff.