We image the Zhaotong‐Ludian fault (ZLF) in the southeastern margin of the Tibetan plateau (SE Tibetan plateau) using waveforms from local and teleseismic earthquakes recorded by 14 seismic stations. We identify two types of fault zone head wave (FZHW) from two clusters of earthquakes by applying an automatic picking algorithm and a horizontal particle motion analysis. The first type of FZHWs shows a linear time–distance moveout and is only observed at stations on the southeast side of the fault in the northeastern section of the ZLF. The moveout slope suggests an average cross‐fault velocity contrast of ∼2.5%. The second type of FZHWs exhibits a constant moveout and is recorded by stations on both sides of the ZLF in the southwestern section from a cluster of earthquakes located in a low‐velocity zone. The difference in cross‐fault velocity contrast between the northeast and southwest segments of the ZLF is also confirmed by teleseismic P‐wave travel‐time data. We attribute the prominent velocity contrast in the northeast section to a lithological difference between the South China block in the southeast and the Daliangshan subblock on the northwest side of the fault. The striking difference between the northeast and southwest sections also implies that earthquakes nucleating in one segment would hardly rupture through the entire fault, which can significantly affect our estimates of the maximum magnitude of future earthquakes occurring on the fault.

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