U-Pb and Hf isotope analyses of zircons from felsic granulite xenoliths in Mesozoic volcanics reveal Early Archean (≥3.6 Ga) lower crust beneath the younger (<2.85 Ga) southern margin of the North China craton, and suggest that the eastern part of the craton formed a coherent block by 3.6 Ga. Hf model ages indicate extraction of protoliths from the mantle ca. 4 Ga or earlier, followed by remelting at 3.6–3.7 Ga. Hf isotope data require both recrystallization of magmatic zircons, and growth of new zircon, up to ca. 1.9 Ga. One sample records 2.1–1.9 Ga remelting of a 2.5 Ga protolith. If large parts of the exposed upper continental crust elsewhere also are underlain by older lower crust, estimates of crustal growth rates through time will require revision.

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