The number beat analysts' forecast of a 5.0 percent increase and compared with 6.9 percent growth in October.
Imports jumped 17.7 percent year-on-year to $177.1 billion, leaving a monthly trade surplus of $40.2 billion.
The predictions had been conservative largely because of recent tighter rules for heavily polluting Chinese companies.
Traders say the import data should help support commodity prices, which have been hit by concerns about slowing economic growth in China. That was the fifth highest on record.
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"Steel mills have been restocking more iron ore since October as prices hit as low as $50 (a tonne)", said Yu Yang, an analyst with Shenyin & Wanguo Futures in Shanghai.
She said traders may also have started to accumulate inventory while prices were falling in anticipation of a ramp-up in demand once mills resume full operations after the stringent winter restrictions across the north are lifted in March.
The rebound in imports come as China's yuan has fallen 2.8 percent against the dollar since hitting its 2017 peak on September 8. Chinese exports to the US rose 14.3 percent and imports increased 4.2 percent. "This should dismiss any fears that last month's fall was indicative of a permanent trend", said ANZ analysts in a note.
China's iron ore imports rebounded in November to one of the highest levels on record, with appetite in the world's top buyer remaining strong even as Beijing forced steel mills to slash output as part of its war on winter smog.