In this study we use combined historical records and results of early paleo-earthquake studies to show that a 160 km seismic gap has existed along the northeast-striking right-slip Tangshan-Hejian-Cixian fault (China) over more than 8400 yr. The seismic gap is centered in Tianjin, a city in the North China Basin with a population of 11 million and located ∼100 km from Beijing, which has a population of 22 million. Current data indicate that the recurrence interval of major earthquakes along the Tangshan-Hejian-Cixian fault is 6700–10,800 yr. This implies that a large earthquake with an estimated magnitude of ∼M 7.5 is either overdue or will occur within the next 2000–3000 yr along the inferred seismic gap if it is ruptured by a single event. Alternatively, the seismic gap may be explained by aseismic creeping, strain transfer between adjacent faults, or much longer recurrence times than the current knowledge indicates.