Subduction and retreating of the western Pacific plate resulted in lithospheric mantle replacement and coupled basin-mountain respond in the North China Craton

Jianping Zheng*, Hongkun Dai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


The North China Craton (NCC) witnessed Mesozoic vigorous tectono-thermal activities and transition in the nature of deep lithosphere. These processes took place in three periods: (1) Late Paleozoic to Early Jurassic (170 Ma); (2) Middle Jurassic to Early Cretaceous (160-140 Ma); (3) Early Cretaceous to Cenozoic (140 Ma to present). The last two stages saw the lithospheric mantle replacement and coupled basin-mountain response within the North China Craton due to subduction and retreating of the Paleo-Pacific plate, and is the emphasis in this paper. In the first period, the subduction and closure of the Paleo- Asian Ocean triggered the back-arc extension, syn-collisional compression and then post-collisional extension accompanied by ubiquitous magmatism along the northern margin of the NCC. Similar processes happened in the southern margin of the craton as the subduction of the Paleo-Tethys ocean and collision with the South China Block. These processes had caused the chemical modification and mechanical destruction of the cratonic margins. The margins could serve as conduits for the asthenosphere upwelling and had the priority for magmatism and deformation. The second period saw the closure of the Mongol-Okhotsk ocean and the shear deformation and magmatism induced by the drifting of the Paleo-Pacific slab. The former led to two pulse of N-S trending compression (Episodes A and B of the Yanshan Movement) and thus the pre-existing continental marginal basins were disintegrated into sporadically basin and range province by the Mesozoic magmatic plutons and NE-SW trending faults. With the anticlockwise rotation of the Paleo-Pacific moving direction, the subduction-related magmatism migrated into the inner part of the craton and the Tanlu fault became normal fault from a sinistral one. The NCC thus turned into a back-arc extension setting at the end of this period. In the third period, the refractory subcontinental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) was firstly remarkably eroded and thinned by the subduction-induced asthenospheric upwelling, especially those beneath the weak zones (i.e., cratonic margins and the lithospheric Tanlu fault zone). Then a slightly lithospheric thickening occurred when the upwelled asthenosphere got cool and transformed to be lithospheric mantle accreted (125 Ma) beneath the thinned SCLM. Besides, the magmatism continuously moved southeastward and the extensional deformations preferentially developed in weak zones, which include the Early Cenozoic normal fault transformed from the Jurassic thrust in the Trans-North Orogenic Belt, the crustal detachment and the subsidence of Bohai basin caused by the continuous normal strike slip of the Tanlu fault, the Cenozoic graben basins originated from the fault depression in the Trans-North Orogenic Belt, the Bohai Basin and the Sulu Orogenic belt. With small block size, inner lithospheric weak zones and the surrounding subductions/collisions, the Mesozoic NCC was characterized by (1) lithospheric thinning and crustal detachment triggered by the subduction-induced asthenospheric upwelling. Local crustal contraction and orogenesis appeared in the Trans-North Orogenic Belt coupled with the crustal detachment; (2) then upwelled asthenosphere got cool to be newly-accreted lithospheric mantle and crustal grabens and basin subsidence happened, as a result of the subduction zone retreating. Therefore, the subduction and retreating of the western Pacific plate is the outside dynamics which resulted in mantle replacement and coupled basin-mountain respond within the North China Craton. We consider that the Mesozoic decratonization of the North China Craton, or the Yanshan Movement, is a comprehensive consequence of complex geological processes proceeding surrounding and within craton, involving both the deep lithospheric mantle and shallow continental crust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)406-424
Number of pages19
JournalScience China Earth Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Paleo-Pacific slab
  • Subduction and retreating
  • Mantle replacement
  • Mountain-basin coupling
  • North China Craton
  • Deep processes and shallow response
  • Yanshan Movement


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