Gold Open Access: This paper is published under the terms of the CC-BY license

The evolution of South China involved accretion-collision of multiple terranes from the Proterozoic to the Mesozoic. Zircon U-Pb ages, Hf data, and structural data indicate that the Cathaysia block consists of two terranes, West Cathaysia and East Cathaysia, separated by a newly recognized major strike-slip fault. We propose that West Cathaysia was part of a microcontinent that originated from a Grenvillian-aged orogen in the Rodinia supercontinent, East Cathaysia originated from an Indosinian-aged orogen in the Paleo-Tethyan regime to the south and was translated to the east of West Cathaysia through strike-slip motion, and the early Paleozoic Wuyi-Yunkai orogeny was a result of direct collision of West Cathaysia with a yet-unidentified terrane that rifted away after the collision. We conclude that a multiterrane Wilson cycle (multi-terrane accretion-collision, large-scale strike-slip motion, and separation of two terranes by post-collisional rifting along the suture zone) characterizes the history of South China and may be a common feature of orogens.