While there exists some documentation in the debian wiki about ibus configuration, I found that it was not the whole story.
I principally encountered issues with ibus-daemon not running, being unable to use ibus-setup to configure ibus ((ibus-setup:17151): dconf-WARNING **: failed to commit changes to dconf: Could not connect: Connection refused), lack of visual feedback, and interference between gnome and ibus in keyboard bindings.
To get a satisfactory setup I ended up doing the following on Debian Jessie. You may not need all the ui bindings:
sudo apt-get install im-config ibus ibus-libpinyin ibus-gtk3 ibus-qt4 ibus-gtk ibus-wayland
Configure locales (may not be necessary):
sudo dpkg-reconfigure locales # select zh-utf8 in addition to whatever others you may need
Install fonts, see the debian wiki.
ibusxim (this was already the default on my system) as the default input mechanism:
im-config -s xim # or just im-config and you'll have a ui
Head over to modify the input settings, search for “Region & Language”
Add new input source, select Chinese (Intelligent Pinyin)
Once added, you can select, hit the gear icon that will appear next to the keyboard icon in the bottom-right.
Configure ibus-libpinyin to your hearts desire.
Note: To change keyboard shortcuts for switching input sources, you may configure those as normal through the gnome settings.
Edit (2016-01-30): After using this set up for a I tweaked it slightly because ibus wasn’t consitently being started nor recognizing escape commands. From the instructions above, I have removed using im-config to use ibus by default. (im-config -s xim)