The Nobel Literature Prize was handed to Mo Yan, one of China's leading writers of the past half-century, who was honoured for a body of work that the Swedish Academy said mixes folk tales, history and the contemporary.
Mo has walked a tightrope during his stay in Stockholm, with some pundits supporting his own claims that he is "independent" and others casting him as a Beijing stooge.
The 2012 Nobel laureates in medicine, literature, economics, physics and chemistry received their prizes from Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf at a gala ceremony in Stockholm on Monday.
The formal event, held as tradition dictates on the anniversary of the death of prize founder Alfred Nobel in 1896, took place at Stockholm's Concert Hall which was decked out in pink, yellow and orange flowers for the occasion.
The laureates and guests were clad in white tie and tails for men and evening gowns for women.
The Medicine Prize was presented to Shinya Yamanaka of Japan and John Gurdon of Britain for work in cell programming, a frontier that has nourished dreams of replacement tissue for people crippled by disease.
Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the United States were meanwhile awarded the Physics Prize for pioneering optical experiments in quantum physics that could one day open the way to revolutionary computers.
Two Americans, Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka, picked up the chemistry prize for identifying a class of cell receptor, yielding vital insights into how the body works at the molecular level.
Finally, US scholars Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley collected the economics prize for their work on how to best match supply and demand that has potential applications in organ donation, education and on the Internet.
The Nobel Prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma, and eight million kronor ($1.2 million, 925,000 euros), to be shared if there is more than one recipient.
The laureates were also to be honoured at a formal dinner banquet later in the evening attended by the royal family and some 1,300 specially-invited guests.
Earlier Monday in Oslo, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union for turning Europe "from a continent of war to a continent of peace," a contested choice of laureate as the bloc faces its worst crisis in six decades.