The Early Paleozoic Wuyi-Yunkai fold belt of South China represents a major orogenic belt in East Asia; however, its formation is not well understood. This paper evaluates the origins of the Neoproterozoic–Early Paleozoic basin and the southern margin of the South China Block (SCB) based on a compilation of the spatiotemporal evolution of the Late Neoproterozoic–Early Paleozoic strata and their depositional environments. These data are combined with high-resolution structural, geochronologic, metamorphic and petrologic data that are published from the region. A new model of a retroarc thrust wedge/foreland basin system is proposed for the succession based on the following: (1) the nature of the basal unconformity, (2) the wedge-shaped basin-fill geometry bounded by the mountain belt to the south, (3) basinward propagation of the thrust-front with time and (4) the presence of a typical underfilled stratigraphic trinity of the foreland basin. The proposed model suggests two major cycles of evolution of the retroarc thrust wedge/foreland basin system (<725–<635 and ca. 564–446 Ma), which record two periods of northwestward subduction of the oceanic slab beneath the southern margin of the SCB. Terrane accretion is inferred to have taken place during the late stage of these cycles.
- Late Neoproterozoic
- Early Paleozoic
- South China
- Retroarc thrust wedge/foreland basin
- Andean-type orogeny