Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a common cancer with very poor survival due to lack of reliable biomarker for early diagnosis. In this study, we investigated microRNA (miRNA) profile of whole blood with a custom microarray containing probes for 1849 miRNA species in a total 213 successive subjects who were divided into a discovery set and a validation set. An 88-miRNA signature was established to diagnose health controls (HC), chronic hepatitis B (CHB), liver cirrhosis (LC) and HCC with 100% accuracy in the discovery set using Fisher discriminant analysis. This diagnostic signature was confirmed in the validation set with accuracy rates of 100%, 95.2%, 93.7% and 98.4% for HC, CHB, LC and HCC patients, respectively. Compared with AFP, the only available non-invasive and routinely used biomarker for diagnosis of HCC, the 88-miRNA signature has much higher accuracy (99.5% vs 76.5%), sensitivity (100% vs 63.8%), and specificity (99.2% vs 84.2%). More importantly, the signature detects small HCCs (<3cm) with 100% (17/17) accuracy while AFP has only 64.7% (11/17). In conclusion, we have identified a powerful and sensitive blood 88-miRNA signature for diagnosing early HCC and other chronic liver diseases (CHB and LC) with a high accuracy.