Chinmen Island is located in the west of the Taiwan Strait, 15 km from the coast of mainland China. Mesozoic granitic gneiss forms the basement rocks of the island. High-defect kaolin deposits, both major sedimentary and minor residual types of clays, have been mined for ceramic uses for many years. The objectives of this study were to characterize the kaolin deposits and to discuss the genesis of kaolin minerals on the island. The kaolin samples were characterized by X-ray diffraction and transmission and scanning electron microscopy. In general, the particle-size distribution of the sedimentary kaolin was 0.5–5.0% sand, 15–55% silt and 30–85% clay. In the clay fraction, the ratio of kaolinite to illite ranged from 9:1 to 3:1. The sedimentary kaolin materials were originally transported by river from mainland China. Kaolinite occurred generally as pseudo-hexagonal platelets of ~1 μm in diameter. The residual kaolin minerals resulted from the argillization of granitoid rocks by in situ weathering which possibly occurred during the Pleistocene. The residual kaolin contained more tubular halloysite.