The 1654 M 8.0 Tianshui earthquake occurred in the triangle area bounded by the West Qinling fault (WQLF) and Lixian–Luojiabao fault (LLF) in the northeastern Tibetan plateau. Previous studies reported that the LLF is the source for this earthquake based on the historical records and the Holocene fault activities. However, topographic analyses, outcrop observations, trench excavations associated with the WQLF, together with the radiocarbon dating results reveal that (1) the most recent surface‐rupturing earthquake (E1) occurred in the past 470 yr, which can only correspond to the 1654 Tianshui earthquake if the historic earthquakes record is complete. This result means that the seismogenic fault, which is responsible for the 1654 Tianshui earthquake is the WQLF, rather than the LLF as previously reported; (2) the penultimate morphogenic earthquake (E2) took place in the period of 2693–760 yr Cal B.P.; (3) the third recent large earthquake (E3) occurred in the period of 10,229–6032 yr Cal B.P. with a higher probability in this range of 9005–8596 yr Cal B.P.; and (4) in consideration of the double time span of event E3 when compared with event E2 and E1, there is a possibility that another morphogenic earthquake took place in the period of 8596–6032 yr Cal B.P., and then the fourth surface‐rupturing event (E4) occurred in the period of 9005–8596 yr Cal B.P. Therefore, at least three or four Holocene slipping events have occurred upon the WQLF in the past , suggesting an average recurrence interval of large earthquakes of 2250–3000 yr. The new evidence associated with the source of the 1654 M 8.0 Tianshui earthquake and the recurrence interval of large earthquakes on the WQLF will throw light on the reassessment of seismic potential in this area.