Intensive studies of ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) metamorphic rocks in continental collision zones have provided petrological insights into the fluid regime during subduction and exhumation. Recent studies in the Dabie–Sulu orogen of China have made important contributions to understanding fluid action in such systems, hence these rocks are the main focus of this review. Sources of metamorphic fluid can be deduced from study of hydrous minerals, structural hydroxyl and molecular water in nominally anhydrous minerals. Fluid and solid inclusions of UHP metamorphic minerals are also a record of fluid action in deep subduction zones. The presence or absence of metamorphic fluid during subduction and exhumation dictates zircon growth and recrystallization, making available materials for U–Pb dating. Isotopic dating demonstrates that after peak UHP metamorphism, retrograde fluid with deuteric origin became active. The decomposition of hydrous minerals and the exsolution of molecular water and structural hydroxyl during exhumation can provide sufficient amounts of aqueous fluid for quartz veining and amphibolite-facies retrogression within UHP slabs. Aqueous fluid released by the exsolution of molecular water and structural hydroxyl from UHP nominally anhydrous minerals is characterized by low salinity and light hydrogen and oxygen isotope compositions. Therefore, one part of the UHP slab is a source of aqueous fluid, whereas another part is a sink. In both cases, the fluid action during subduction and exhumation is episodic rather than continuous.
A description of the Dabie–Sulu UHP metamorphic rocks, analytical methods, LA-ICPMS zircon U–Pb isotope data and rare earth element compositions are available at http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/SUP18355.