The Shenzhou 8 spacecraft silently coupled the Tiangong 1 module more than 343 km above Earth, in a manoeuvre carried live on state television.
The success of the docking procedure makes China the third country in the world, after the United States and Russia, to master the technique, moving the country one step closer to establishing its own space station.
China is now equipped with the basic technology and capacity required for the construction of a space station, Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's manned space programme said.
"This will make it possible for China to carry out space exploration on a larger scale," he was quoted by the state run Xinhua news agency as saying.
President Hu Jintao, who is in France for the G-20 summit, sent a congratulatory message on the success of the country's first-ever space docking.
"Breakthroughs in and acquisition of space docking technologies are vital to the three-phase development strategy of our manned space program," Hu said.
Other state leaders, including Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang, who are Standing Committee members of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, watched the mission at the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Centre.