When and how the Yangtze Block (Yangtze) and the West Cathaysia terrane (West Cathaysia) in South China were amalgamated are critical to a better understanding of the Neoproterozoic to early Paleozoic tectonic evolution of South China and remain highly debatable. A key to this debate is the tectonic significance of the Jiangshan-Shaoxing-Pingxiang (JSP) Fault, the boundary between Yangtze and West Cathaysia. The Shenshan mélange along the JSP Fault has the typical block-in-matrix structure and is composed of numerous shear zone-bounded slivers/lenses of rocks of different types and ages that formed in different tectonic environments, including middle to late Tonian volcanic and volcanogenic sedimentary rocks (turbidite) of arc/back-arc affinity, a series of middle Tonian ultramafic to mafic plutonic rocks of oceanic island basalt affinity, a carbonaceous shale that was deposited in a deep marine environment, and a red mudstone. U-Pb zircon ages and acritarch assemblages (Leiosphaeridia-Brocholaminaria association) found in the turbidite confirm its Tonian age, and fossils from the carbonaceous shale (Asteridium-Comasphaeridium and Skiagia-Celtiberium-Leiofusa) constrains its age to the Early to Middle Cambrian. Field relationships and available age data leave no doubt that the ultramafic-mafic rocks are exotic blocks (rather than intrusions) in the younger metasedimentary rocks. We conclude that the Shenshan mélange is not an ophiolitic mélange, but rather a tectonic mélange that formed as a result of movement along the JSP Fault in the early Paleozoic. We suggest that Yangtze and West Cathaysia were two separate microcontinents, were accreted to two different parts of the northern margin of Gondwana in the early Early Paleozoic, and juxtaposed in the late Early Paleozoic through strike-slip movement along the JSP Fault. We further suggest that the ca. 820 Ma collision in the Jiangnan Orogen took place between Yangtze and a (micro)continent that is now partly preserved as the Huaiyu terrane and was not related to West Cathaysia. We compare our model for South China with the accretion of terranes in the North American Cordillera and propose a similar model for the relationship between the Avalon and Meguma terranes in the Canadian Appalachians, i.e., the two terranes were accreted to two different parts of the Laurentian margin and were later juxtaposed through margin-parallel strike slip faulting.

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