Precipitation variation on the Loess Plateau (LP) of China is not only important for rain-fed agriculture in this environmentally sensitive region, but also critical for the water and life securities over the whole Yellow River basin. Here we reconstruct high resolution precipitation variation on the western LP during the past 370 years by using two replicated, annually-laminated stalagmites. Spatial analysis suggests that the reconstruction can be also representative for the whole LP region. The precipitation variations show a significant quasi-50 year periodicity during the last 370 years, and have an important role in determining the runoff of the middle Yellow River. The main factor controlling the decadal scale variations and long-term trend in precipitation over this region is southerly water vapour transport associated with the Asian summer monsoon. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation is also an important influence on precipitation variation in this region, as it can affect the East Asian summer monsoon and the West Pacific Subtropical High.