The Wulian complex is located on the northern margin of the Sulu orogenic belt, and was formed by collision between the North China Craton (NCC) to the north and South China Craton (SCC) to the south. It consists of the metasedimentary Wulian Group, gneissic granite and meta-diorite. The U–Pb analyses for the detrital zircons from the Wulian Group exhibit one predominant age population of 2600–2400 Ma with a peak at c. 2.5 Ga and several secondary age populations of > 3000, 3000–2800, 2800–2600, 2200–2000, 1900–1800, 1500–1300 and 1250–950 Ma; some metamorphic zircons have metamorphic ages of c. 2.7, 2.55–2.45, 2.1–2.0 and 1.95–1.80 Ga, which are consistent with magmatic-metamorphic events in the SCC. Additionally, the Wulian Group was intruded by the gneissic granite and meta-diorite at c. 0.76 Ga, attributed to Neoproterozoic syn-rifting bimodal magmatic activity in the SCC and derived from partial melting of Archaean continental crust and depleted mantle, respectively. The Wulian Group therefore has tectonic affinity to the SCC and was mainly sourced from the SCC. The detrital zircons have positive and negative ϵHf(t) values, indicating that their source rocks were derived from reworking of both ancient and juvenile crustal rocks. The major early Precambrian crustal growth took place during c. 3.4–2.5 Ga with a dominant peak at 2.96 Ga and several secondary peaks at 3.27, 2.74 and 2.52 Ga. The two oldest zircons with ages of 3307 and 3347 Ma record the recycling of ancient continental crust (> 3.35 Ga) and crustal growth prior to c. 3.95 Ga in the SCC.