Yunnan Baiyao (YNBY) is one of the best known traditional Chinese medicines. Saponins are considered to be its active components. In this study, an HPLC method was first developed for the simultaneous quantitative analysis of thirteen saponins, including five triterpenoid saponins and eight steroidal saponins, in a series of YNBY preparations, i. e., powder, capsules, aerosol, toothpaste, plaster, and adhesive bandage. The pre-treatment methods for each dosage form were investigated and optimized. The HPLC separation was performed on a Shim-pack C(18) reversed-phase column in gradient mode with UV detection at 203 nm. All calibration curves showed good linear regression (r(2) > or = 0.9981) within the test ranges. Precisions and repeatabilities of the methods were better than 4.22 and 4.78%, respectively. Recoveries were better than 90.5%, even in the analysis of the least abundant saponins in a complex YNBY plaster. HPLC-ESI-TOF/MS was used for definite identification of compounds in the preparations. This proposed method was successfully applied to quantify the 13 bioactive constituents in 27 commercial samples to evaluate the quality of YNBY preparations. The overall results demonstrate that this method is simple, reliable, and suitable for the quality control of YNBY. Furthermore, the retention behavior of these saponins in reversed-phase chromatography is described.