Chinese loess is regarded as one of the most detailed and complete terrestrial archives of late Cenozoic climate change. However, high-resolution optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dates presented here reveal that the suborbital chronological framework of Chinese loess used in many previous climate reconstructions requires reassessment. Chronological uncertainty of as much as 10–15 k.y. for the late Pleistocene is largely a result of the widespread use of nonradiometric dating techniques that fail to account for site-specific depositional conditions associated with loess emplacement and diagenesis. OSL-based age models that account for these processes are used to examine detailed records of past sedimentation, as well as grain size and magnetic susceptibility proxies for late Pleistocene East Asian monsoon variation. Abrupt shifts in monsoon proxies occur over 102–103 yr time scales, potentially forced by a variety of factors and influenced by site location and site-specific changes in sedimentation.