But few analysts expect a further sharp rise in inflation or policy tightening in coming months as the world's second-largest economy still faces a weak global environment and Beijing tries to tap the brake on credit-fuelled investment.
The inflation rate was higher than a median forecast of 2.9 percent in a Reuters poll and August's 2.6 percent, but was still below the official target of 3.5 percent for 2013.
"We expect CPI inflation to rise further in Q4 and see rising risks that it may rise above 3.5 percent for some months in 2014," said Zhiwei Zhang, China economist at Nomura in Hong Kong.
"The rise of CPI inflation leaves little room for policy easing as benchmark deposit rate is only 3 percent."
At the same time, analysts see little risk of a tightening given inflation was below the full-year target.
Month-on-month, consumer prices rose 0.8 percent, the National Bureau of Statistics said, bigger than a rise of 0.5 percent expected by economists.
Food prices gained 1.5 percent in September from August due to droughts and floods in some areas, pushing up the CPI by 0.51 percentage points, Yu Qiumei, a senior statistician at the bureau, said in a statement.
In annual terms, food prices jumped 6.1 percent.
"September CPI inflation gained more momentum on seasonal factors and a low base effect from last year," said Li Huiyong, an economist at Shenyin & Wanguo Securities in Shanghai.
"But we think the inflation situation is still under well control and will not be a concern this year, especially when the economy is struggling with over-capacity problems."
China's exports dropped 0.3 percent in September from a year earlier, against expectations of a 6 percent rise, data showed on Saturday.
FACTORY-GATE DEFLATION EASES
Factory-gate deflation eased further in September, although in annual terms prices still recoded a 19th consecutive fall.
Producer prices fell 1.3 percent from a year earlier, a smaller fall than the 1.4 percent expected by the market and the 1.6 percent drop in August.
However, there was some relief to manufacturers struggling to cope with profit-eating price declines, as producer prices rose 0.2 percent from August.
After slowing in nine of the past 10 quarters, the economy looks to have stabilized since mid-year after Beijing acted to head off a sharper downturn with increased spending on public housing construction, railways and tax cuts for smaller firms.
Annual economic growth is forecast to have accelerated to 7.8 percent in the third quarter from 7.5 percent in the second quarter, but the recovery could fizzle towards the year-end, the Reuters poll showed.
Third-quarter GDP growth data, along with industrial output, fixed-asset investment and retail sales, is due on Friday.
Beijing has a growth target of 7.5 percent for 2013, which would be the weakest rate in more than 20 years, and has repeatedly said it would accept slower growth as it tries to wean the economy off dependence on investment and exports in favor of domestic consumption."The economy faces some downward pressures, especially by looking at the export data. Full-year GDP growth could be 7.6 percent," said Zhou Hao, China economist at ANZ in Shanghai.