Skip to main content Accessibility help

UHP metamorphism recorded by coesite-bearing metapelite in the East Kunlun Orogen (NW China)

  • Hengzhe Bi (a1), Shuguang Song (a1), Liming Yang (a1), Mark B. Allen (a2), Shengsheng Qi (a3) and Li Su (a4)...


The East Kunlun Orogen (EKO) is the NW part of the Central China Orogenic Belt, which records the evolutionary history of the Proto- and Palaeo-Tethys Oceans from the Cambrian to the Triassic. An Early Palaeozoic eclogite belt has been recognized in recent years, which extends discontinuously for ∼500 km as three eclogite-bearing terranes. In this study, we report an integrated study of zircon grains from mica-schists accompanying the eclogites, in terms of mineral inclusions, U–Pb age systematics and P–T conditions. The presence of coesite is identified, as inclusions within the metamorphic domain of zircons, which provides unambiguous evidence for subducted terrigenous clastic rocks of the Proto-Tethys Ocean exhumed from coesite-forming depths. U–Pb dating of the metamorphic zircons yields a concordia age of 426.5 ± 0.88 Ma, which is likely to be the time of ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism in the Kehete terrane. P–T calculations suggest that metapelite may have experienced a clockwise P–T path with peak P/T conditions of 685 ± 41 °C and >28 kbar, and equilibrated at 482–566 °C and 5.6–8.9 kbar during subsequent exhumation. The high-pressure – ultrahigh-pressure (HP-UHP) metamorphic belt within the EKO may have formed by collision between the Qaidam Block and the South Kunlun Block, as a consequence of the closure of the Proto-Tethys Ocean.


Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Shuguang Song, Email:


Hide All
Andersen, T (2002) Correction of common lead in U–Pb analyses that do not report 204Pb. Chemical Geology 192, 5979.
Bi, HZ, Song, SG, Dong, JL, Yang, LM, Qi, SS and Allen, MB (2018) First discovery of coesite in eclogite from East Kunlun, northwest China. Science Bulletin 63, 1536–8.
Bian, Q, Li, D, Pospelov, I, Yin, L, Li, H, Zhao, D, Chang, C, Luo, X, Gao, S and Astrakhantsev, O (2004) Age, geochemistry and tectonic setting of Buqingshan ophiolites, North Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 23, 577–96.
Carswell, DA and Compagnoni, R (2003) Introduction with review of the definition, distribution and geotectonic significance of ultrahigh pressure metamorphism. In Ultrahigh Pressure Metamorphism (eds Carswell, DA and Compagnoni, R), pp. 39. Budapest: Eotvos University Press.
Cherniak, DJ and Watson, EB (2003) Diffusion in zircon. In Zircon (eds Hanchar, JM and Hoskin, PWO), pp. 113–43. Chantilly, Virginia: Mineralogical Society of America. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry, no. 53.
Chopin, C (1984) Coesite and pure pyrope in high-grade blueschists of the Western Alps: a first record and some consequences. Contributions to Mineralogy & Petrology 86, 107–18.
Dong, Y, He, D, Sun, S, Liu, X, Zhou, X, Zhang, F, Yang, Z, Cheng, B, Zhao, G and Li, J (2018) Subduction and accretionary tectonics of the East Kunlun Orogen, western segment of the Central China Orogenic System. Earth-Science Reviews 186, 231261.
Dong, Y and Santosh, M (2016) Tectonic architecture and multiple orogeny of the Qinling Orogenic Belt, Central China. Gondwana Research 29, 140.
Ferry, JM and Watson, EB (2007) New thermodynamic models and revised calibrations for the Ti-in-zircon and Zr-in-rutile thermometers. Contributions to Mineralogy & Petrology 154, 429–37.
Frezzotti, ML, Tecce, F and Casagli, A (2012) Raman spectroscopy for fluid inclusion analysis. Journal of Geochemical Exploration 112, 120.
Hacker, BR and Peacock, SM (1995) Creation, preservation, and exhumation of UHPM rocks. In Ultrahigh-Pressure Metamorphism (eds Coleman, RG and Wang, X), pp. 159–81. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jiang, CF (1992) The Opening–Closing Tectonics of Kunlun. Beijing: Geological Publishing House, 217 pp.
Katayama, I, Maruyama, S, Parkinson, CD, Terada, K and Sano, Y (2001) Ion micro-probe U–Pb zircon geochronology of peak and retrograde stages of ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic rocks from the Kokchetav massif, northern Kazakhstan. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 188, 185–98.
Li, S, Zhao, S, Liu, X, Cao, H, Yu, S, Li, X, Somerville, I, Yu, S and Suo, Y (2018) Closure of the Proto-Tethys Ocean and Early Paleozoic amalgamation of microcontinental blocks in East Asia. Earth-Science Reviews 186, 3775
Li, XH, Li, WX, Li, ZX and Liu, Y (2008) 850–790 Ma bimodal volcanic and intrusive rocks in northern Zhejiang, South China: a major episode of continental rift magmatism during the breakup of Rodinia. Lithos 102, 341–57.
Li, XH, Li, ZX, Ge, W, Zhou, H, Li, W, Liu, Y and Wingate, MTD (2003) Neoproterozoic granitoids in South China: crustal melting above a mantle plume at ca. 825 Ma? Precambrian Research 122, 45–83.
Li, XH, Tang, GQ, Bing, G, Yang, YH, Hou, KJ, Hu, ZC, Li, QL, Liu, Y and Li, WX (2013) Qinghu zircon: a working reference for micro beam analysis of U–Pb age and Hf and O isotopes. China Science Bulletin 58, 4647–54.
Liou, JG, Ernst, WG, Zhang, RY, Tsujimori, T and Jahn, BM (2009) Ultrahigh-pressure minerals and metamorphic terranes – the view from China. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 35, 199231.
Liou, JG, Tsujimori, T, Zhang, RY, Katayama, I and Maruyama, S (2004) Global UHP metamorphism and continental subduction/collision: the Himalayan model. International Geology Review 46, 127.
Liu, FL and Liou, JG (2011) Zircon as the best mineral for P–T-time history of UHP metamorphism: a review on mineral inclusions and U–Pb SHRIMP ages of zircons from the Dabie–Sulu UHP rocks. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 40, 139.
Liu, ZQ, Pei, XZ and Li, RB (2011) LA-ICP-MS zircon U–Pb geochronology of the two suites of ophiolites at the Buqingshan area of the A’nyemaqen orogenic belt in the southern margin of East Kunlun and its tectonic implication. Acta Geologica Sinica 85, 185–94.
Ludwig, KR (2003) User’s Manual for Isoplot 3.0: A Geochronological Toolkit for Microsoft Excel. Berkeley, California: Berkeley Geochronology Centre, Special Publication 4.
Mattinson, CG, Wooden, JL, Liou, JG, Bird, DK and Wu, CL (2006) Age and duration of eclogite-facies metamorphism, North Qaidam HP/UHP terrane, Western China. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 70, A401.
Meng, F, Cui, M, Wu, X and Ren, Y (2015) Heishan mafic–ultramafic rocks in the Qimantag area of Eastern Kunlun, NW China: remnants of an early Paleozoic incipient island arc. Gondwana Research 27, 745–59.
Meng, F, Zhang, J and Cui, M (2013) Discovery of Early Paleozoic eclogite from the East Kunlun, Western China, and its tectonic significance. Gondwana Research 23, 825–36.
Pearce, NJG, Perkins, WT, Westgate, JA, Gorton, MP, Jackson, SE, Neal, CR and Chenery, SP (1997) A compilation of new and published major and trace element data for NIST SRM 610 and NIST SRM 612 glass reference materials. Geostandards Newsletter 21, 115–44.
Qi, SS, Song, SG, Shi, LC, Cai, HJ and Hu, JC (2014) Discovery and its geological significance of Early Paleozoic eclogite in Xiarihamu-Suhaitu area, western part of the East Kunlun. Acta Petrologica Sinica 30, 3345–56.
Qi, XP, Fan, XG, Yang, J, Cui, JT, Wang, BY, Fan, YZ, Yang, GX, Li, Z, and Chao, WD (2016) The discovery of Early Paleozoic eclogite in the upper reaches of Langmuri in eastern East Kunlun Mountains and its significance. Geological Bulletin of China 35, 1771–83.
Roger, F, Arnaud, N, Gilder, S, Tapponnier, P, Jolivet, M, Brunel, M, Malavieille, J, Xu, Z and Yang, J (2003) Geochronological and geochemical constraints on Mesozoic suturing in east central Tibet. Tectonics 22, 1037. doi: 10.1029/2002TC001466.
Rubatto, D and Hermann, J (2007) Zircon behaviour in deeply subducted rocks. Elements 3, 31–5.
Sobolev, NV and Shatsky, VS (1990) Diamond inclusions in garnets from metamorphic rocks: a new environment for diamond formation. Nature 343, 742–6.
Song, SG, Bi, H, Qi, S, Yang, L, Allen, MB, Niu, YL, Su, L and Li, W (2018) HP-UHP metamorphic belt in the East Kunlun Orogen: final closure of the Proto-Tethys Ocean and formation of Pan-North-China Continent. Journal of Petrology 59, 2043–60.
Song, SG, Niu, Y, Su, L and Xia, X (2013) Tectonics of the North Qilian orogen, NW China. Gondwana Research 23, 1378–401.
Song, SG, Niu, YL, Su, L, Zhang, C and Zhang, LF (2014) Continental orogenesis from ocean subduction, continent collision/subduction, to orogen collapse, and orogen recycling: the example of the North Qaidam UHPM belt, NW China. Earth-Science Reviews 129, 5984.
Song, SG, Niu, Y, Wei, C, Ji, J and Su, L (2010) Metamorphism, anatexis, zircon ages and tectonic evolution of the Gongshan block in the northern Indochina continent – an eastern extension of the Lhasa Block. Lithos 120, 327–46.
Song, SG, Niu, YL, Zhang, LF, Wei, CJ, Liou, JG and Su, L (2009) Tectonic evolution of early Paleozoic HP metamorphic rocks in the North Qilian Mountains, NW China: new perspectives. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 35, 334–53.
Song, SG, Su, L, Li, XH, Niu, YL and Zhang, LF (2012) Grenville-age orogenesis in the Qaidam-Qilian block: the link between South China and Tarim. Precambrian Research 220, 922.
Song, SG, Yang, J, Xu, Z, Liou, J and Shi, R (2003) Metamorphic evolution of the coesite-bearing ultrahigh-pressure terrane in the North Qaidam, Northern Tibet, NW China. Journal of Metamorphic Geology 21, 631–44.
Song, SG, Yang, LM, Zhang, Y, Niu, Y, Wang, C, Su, L and Gao, Y (2017) Qi-Qin Accretionary Belt in Central China Orogen: accretion by trench jam of oceanic plateau and formation of intra-oceanic arc in the Early Paleozoic Qin-Qi-Kun Ocean. Science Bulletin 15, 1035–8.
Song, SG, Zhang, LF, Niu, YL, Su, L, Song, BA and Liu, DY (2006) Evolution from oceanic subduction to continental collision: a case study from the Northern Tibetan Plateau based on geochemical and geochronological data. Journal of Petrology 47, 435–55.
Tung, K-A, Yang, H-Y, Liu, D-Y, Zhang, J-X, Yang, H-J, Shau, Y-H and Tseng, C-Y (2013) The Neoproterozoic granitoids from the Qilian block, NW China: evidence for a link between the Qilian and South China blocks. Precambrian Research 235, 163–89.
von Raumer, JF and Stampfli, GM (2008) The birth of the Rheic Ocean – Early Palaeozoic subsidence patterns and subsequent tectonic plate scenarios. Tectonophysics 461, 920.
Whitney, DL and Evans, BW (2010) Abbreviations for names of rock-forming minerals. American Mineralogist 95, 185–7.
Wiedenbeck, M, Allé, P, Corfu, F, Griffin, WL, Meier, M, Oberli, F, Quadt, AV, Roddick, JC and Spiegel, W (1995) Three natural zircon standards for U–Th–Pb, Lu–Hf, trace element and REE analyses. Geostandards & Geoanalytical Research 19, 123.
Wu, CM and Zhao, GC (2006) Recalibration of the garnet–muscovite (GM) geothermometer and the garnet–muscovite–plagioclase–quartz (GMPQ) geobarometer for metapelitic assemblages. Journal of Petrology 47, 2357–68.
Xu, X, Song, S, Allen, MB, Ernst, RE, Niu, Y and Su, L (2016) An 850–820 Ma LIP dismembered during breakup of the Rodinia supercontinent and destroyed by Early Paleozoic continental subduction in the northern Tibetan Plateau, NW China. Precambrian Research 282, 5273.
Xu, X, Song, SG, Su, L, Li, ZX, Niu, YL and Allen, MB (2015) The 600-580 Ma continental rift basalts in North Qilian Shan, northwest China: Links between the Qilian-Qaidam block and SE Australia, and the reconstruction of East Gondwana. Precambrian Research 257, 4764.
Yang, JS, Robinson, PT, Jiang, CF and Xu, ZQ (1996) Ophiolites of the Kunlun Mountains, China and their tectonic implication. Tectonophysics 258, 215–31.
Yang, JS, Wang, XB, Shi, RD, Xu, ZQ and Wu, C (2009) The Dur’ngoi ophiolite in East Kunlun, north Qinghai-Tibet Plateau: a fragment of paleo-Tethyan oceanic crust. Geology in China 31, 225–39.
Yin, A and Harrison, TM (2000) Geologic evolution of the Himalayan-Tibetan orogen. Annual Review of Earth & Planetary Sciences 28, 211–80.
Yu, SY, Zhang, JX, Li, HK, Hou, KJ, Mattinson, CG and Gong, JH (2013) Geochemistry, zircon U - Pb geochronology and Lu - Hf isotopic composition of eclogites and their host gneisses in the Dulan area, North Qaidam UHP terrane: new evidence for deep continental subduction. Gondwana Research 23, 901–19.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed