Abstract: The past decades have seen increasing interest in developing pyrolysis pathways to produce biofuels and bio-based chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass. Pyrolysis is a key stage in other thermochemical conversion processes, such as combustion and gasification. Understanding the reaction mechanisms of biomass pyrolysis will facilitate the process optimization and reactor design of commercial-scale biorefineries. However, the multiscale complexity of the biomass structures and reactions involved in pyrolysis make it challenging to elucidate the mechanism. This article provides a broad review of the state-of-art biomass pyrolysis research. Considering the complexity of the biomass structure, the pyrolysis characteristics of its three major individual components (cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin) are discussed in detail. Recently developed experimental technologies, such as Py-GC–MS/FID, TG-MS/TG-FTIR, in situ spectroscopy, 2D-PCIS, isotopic labeling method, in situ EPR and PIMS have been employed for biomass pyrolysis research, including online monitoring of the evolution of key intermediate products and the qualitative and quantitative measurement of the pyrolysis products. Based on experimental results, many macroscopic kinetic modeling methods with comprehensive mechanism schemes, such as the distributed activation energy model (DAEM), isoconversional method, detailed lumped kinetic model, kinetic Monte Carlo model, have been developed to simulate the mass loss behavior during biomass pyrolysis and to predict the resulting product distribution. Combined with molecular simulations of the elemental reaction routes, an in-depth understanding of the biomass pyrolysis mechanism may be obtained. Aiming to further improve the quality of pyrolysis products, the effects of various catalytic methods and feedstock pretreatment technologies on the pyrolysis behavior are also reviewed. At last, a brief conclusion for the challenge and perspectives of biomass pyrolysis is provided.