© The Royal Society of Chemistry. Graphitic carbon nitride (g-C3N4), a metal-free semiconductor with a band gap of 2.7 eV, has received considerable attention owing to its fascinating photocatalytic performances under visible-light. g-C3N4 exhibits high thermal and chemical stability and non-toxicity such that it has been considered as the most promising photocatalyst for environmental improvement and energy conservation. Hence, it is of great importance to obtain high-quality g-C3N4 and gain a clear understanding of its optical properties. Herein, we report a high-yield synthesis of g-C3N4 products via heating of high vacuum-sealed melamine powder in an ampoule at temperatures between 450 and 650°C. Using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), X-ray diffraction (XRD), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), the chemical composition and crystallization of the as-produced g-C3N4 are demonstrated. A systematic optical study of g-C3N4 is carried out with several approaches. The optical phonon behavior of g-C3N4 is revealed by infrared and Raman spectroscopy, and the emission properties of g-C3N4 are investigated using photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy, while the photocatalytic properties are explored by the photodegradation experiment.