Black carbon (BC) produced from open burning (OB) and controlled combustion (CC) is a range of carbonaceous products of incomplete combustion of biomass and fossil fuel, and is deemed as one of the major contributors to impact global environment and human health. BC has a strong relationship with POPs, in waste combustion, BC promotes the formation of POPs, and then the transport of POPs in the environment is highly influenced by BC. However less is known about BC formation, measurement and emissions estimation especially in developing countries such as China. Different forms of BC are produced both in CC and OB. BC emission characteristics and combustion parameters which determine BC emissions from CC and OB are discussed. Recent studies showed a lack of common methodology and the resulting data for describing the mechanisms related to BC formation during combustion processes. Because BC is a continuum carbonaceous combustion product, different sampling and measuring methods are used for measuring their emissions with great quantitative uncertainty. We discuss the commonly used BC sampling and measuring methods along with the causes for uncertainty and measures to minimizing the uncertainty. Then, we discuss the estimations of BC emission factors and emission inventory for CC and OB sources. The total emissions of BC from CC and OB in China are also estimated and compared with previous BC emission inventories in this review and we find the inventories tend to be overestimated. As China becomes the largest contributor to global BC emissions, studies for characterizing BC emissions from OB and CC sources are absent in China. Finally, we comment on the current state of BC emission research and identify major deficiencies that need to overcome. Moreover, the advancement in research tools, measuring technique in particular, as discussed in this review is critical for researchers in developing countries to improve their capability to study BC emissions for addressing the growing climate change and public health concerns.