In worldwide orogenic belts, crustal-scale ductile shear zones are important tectonic channels along which the orogenic root (i.e., high-grade metamorphic lower-crustal rocks) commonly experienced a relatively quick exhumation or uplift process. However, their tectonic nature and geodynamic processes are poorly constrained. In the Trans–North China orogen, the crustal-scale Zhujiafang ductile shear zone represents a major tectonic boundary separating the upper and lower crusts of the orogen. Its tectonic nature, structural features, and timing provide vital information into understanding this issue. Detailed field observations showed that the Zhujiafang ductile shear zone experienced polyphase deformation. Variable macro- and microscopic kinematic indicators are extensively preserved in the highly sheared tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite (TTG) and supracrustal rock assemblages and indicate an obvious dextral strike-slip and dip-slip sense of shear. Electron backscattered diffraction (EBSD) was utilized to further determine the crystallographic preferred orientation (CPO) of typical rock-forming minerals, including hornblende, quartz, and feldspar. EBSD results indicate that the hornblendes are characterized by (100) <001> and (110) <001> slip systems, whereas quartz grains are dominated by prism <a> and prism <c> slip systems, suggesting an approximate shear condition of 650–700 °C. This result is consistent with traditional thermobarometry pressure-temperature calculations implemented on the same mineral assemblages. Combined with previously reported metamorphic data in the Trans–North China orogen, we suggest that the Zhujiafang supracrustal rocks were initially buried down to ∼30 km depth, where high differential stress triggered the large-scale ductile shear between the upper and lower crusts. The high-grade lower-crustal rocks were consequently exhumed upwards along the shear zone, synchronous with extensive isothermal decompression metamorphism. The timing of peak collision-related crustal thickening was further constrained by the ca. 1930 Ma metamorphic zircon ages, whereas a subsequent exhumation event was manifested by ca. 1860 Ma syntectonic granitic veins and the available Ar-Ar ages of the region. The Zhujiafang ductile shear zone thus essentially record an integrated geodynamic process of initial collision, crustal thickening, and exhumation involved in formation of the Trans–North China orogen at 1.9–1.8 Ga.

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