Qingcaosha Reservoir (QR) is the largest river-embedded reservoir in east China, which receives its source water from the Yangtze River (YR). The temporal and spatial variations in dissolved organic matter (DOM), chromophoric DOM (CDOM), nitrogen, phosphorus and phytoplankton biomass were investigated from June to September in 2012 and were integrated by principal component analysis (PCA). Three PCA factors were identified: (1) phytoplankton related factor 1, (2) total DOM related factor 2, and (3) eutrophication related factor 3. Factor 1 was a lake-type parameter which correlated with chlorophyll-a and protein-like CDOM (r = 0.793 and r = 0.831, respectively). Factor 2 was a river-type parameter which correlated with total DOC and humic-like CDOM (r = 0.668 and r = 0.726, respectively). Factor 3 correlated with total nitrogen and phosphorus (r = 0.864 and r = 0.621, respectively). The low flow speed, self-sedimentation and nutrient accumulation in QR resulted in increases in PCA factor 1 scores (phytoplankton biomass and derived CDOM) in the spatial scale, indicating a change of river-type water (YR) to lake-type water (QR). In summer, the water temperature variation induced a growth-bloom-decay process of phytoplankton combined with the increase of PCA factor 2 (humic-like CDOM) in the QR, which was absent in the YR.