The Pliocene to recent Taixinan basin is a unique foreland basin built on the northeastern part of the northern passive margin of the South China Sea (SCS). We have used multichannel seismic profiles tied to well controls from ODP Leg 184 to investigate the tectonic and sedimentary characteristics of the foreland basin. We defined three seismic sequences, dated respectively to the Pliocene (5.33–2.5 Ma), early Quaternary (2.5–1.0 Ma), and late Quaternary (1.0 Ma–present). They represent three stages of evolution of the foreland basin. We have recognized seven types of seismic facies, which are parallel-to-subparallel, progradational, fill-type, divergent mounded, wavy, lenticular, and chaotic facies, and are interpreted as hemipelagic deposits, deltas, submarine canyon fills, levees, sediment waves, submarine fans, and mass transport deposits, respectively. Seismic facies analysis indicates that sedimentation within the foreland basin has been dominated by turbidity currents and the other gravity transport processes. Tectonically, the foreland basin consists of three structural zones: an eastern wedge-top, a central foredeep, and a western forebulge zones. Different from a typical foreland basin, however, the basin extends in the northeast–southwest direction, which is oblique to the north–south-striking Taiwan orogenic zone, but parallel to the northern SCS passive margin, where the basin is hosted, suggesting that the foreland basin is significantly influenced by the development of the passive margin. In addition, the basin displays a distinctive inverted-triangle-shaped downstream-converging sediment dispersal system instead of ideal transverse or longitudinal drainage systems common in a typical foreland basin. We have suggested that the Pliocene to recent Taixinan basin is an atypical foreland basin, which was formed as a flexural response of tectonic loading by the Taiwan orogenic wedge, but strongly affected by its passive continental margin background.