"According to the initial police investigation, a man took out a homemade explosive device in a beer bottle from a bag he was carrying and threw it in front of the check-in counters.
"After the beer bottle exploded, the man took out a dagger from his bag, slashed his own neck and collapsed on the floor," according to a Shanghai Police press statement.
On Monday, police identified the suspect as Zhou Xingbai, a 29-year-old man originally from the southwestern province of Guizhou.
Police said Zhou took several buses to make his way to the Pudong airport on Sunday and committed the crime around 2:26 p.m. near check-in row C at Terminal 2.
According to the preliminary investigation, Zhou filled a beer bottle with gunpowder from fireworks and firecrackers. Police said they have found remnants of gunpowder in his residence in Kunshan, near Shanghai.
The assailant is currently in critical condition and being treated in hospital, police said.
Another four passengers at the scene -- including a Filipino national -- were slightly injured by broken glass from the blast and have been hospitalized for treatment. The case is under further investigation, the police statement added.
'Lost all his savings'
After graduating from high school in 2006, Zhou became a migrant worker - first in the southern province of Guangdong and later in the eastern province of Jiangsu, according to the police statement.
He has been a worker at an electronics factory in Kunshan since early 2014 and has lived in the employee dormitory.
"After Zhou became addicted to gambling, he had lost all his savings and depended on borrowing money from friends to survive," police said.
"Before the incident, Zhou said in a group chat on Wechat (social media platform) that he had owed many people money and was ready to do something so crazy that he would lose his life for it."
Pudong is one of China's busiest aviation hubs, with more than 60 million passengers passing through its two terminals last year.
In 2013, a wheelchair-bound man set off a homemade explosive inside Beijing Capital International Airport after being prevented from airing a personal grievance
According to Xinhua, he was stopped from handing out leaflets "to get attention to his complaints" outside the arrival hall. He then warned people nearby to get away before setting off the device.
He was sentenced to six years in prison.