HP–UHT granulites in the East Kunlun Orogen, NW China: Constraints on the transition from compression to extension in an arc setting of the Proto-Tethys Ocean

Hengzhe Bi, Shuguang Song, Donna L. Whitney, Chao Wang, Li Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The East Kunlun Orogen (EKO) of the northwest part of the Central China Orogenic belt records long-lived orogenic events from the Cambrian to the Triassic, involving the tectonic evolution from Proto-Tethys to Palaeo-Tethys. Although high- and ultra high pressure (HP‒UHP) metamorphism has been recognized in the EKO, other metamorphic events associated with the orogenic history are little known. The metamorphic history of high- and ultra high temperature granulites and their pressure–temperature–time (P‒T–t) path is keys to reconstructing tectonic events associated with a subduction-to-collision transition. In this contribution, we present P‒T–t results for the mafic and pelitic granulite facies metamorphic rocks in the Qingshuiquan region of the EKO, determined using phase equilibrium modelling and zircon geochronology. The Jingshuikou granulite terrane records a clockwise P–T path with high-P and ultra high temperature (HP–UHT) conditions at Pmax ~900 to 950°C at 13 kbar, at Tmax of ~950°C at 9‒12 kbar, and a final stage of 800‒895°C at 6‒10 kbar. LA-ICP-MS U–Pb dating of zircons provides systemic constraints on a long-lived metamorphic age span of 530‒465 Ma, with a peak of c. 503 Ma. The HP–UHT metamorphism of the Qingshuiquan granulite terrane reveals a complete process from arc compression at the early stage of subduction to extension on the active continental margin related to rollback of the subducted slab in the Early Palaeozoic, driven by heat transfer from upwelling of the sub-arc hot asthenosphere. The timing and P‒T conditions of the high geothermal gradient metamorphism can be used to understand the subduction and collision process of the Proto-Tethys Ocean, including the relationship between high-P and high- to ultra-temperature metamorphism in the East Kunlun and other orogenic belts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1071-1095
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Metamorphic Geology
Issue number8
StatePublished - May 19 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Li Xiaoli for the help with the electronic microbe analyses, and Ding Hongrui for the Raman Spectrum analysis. We also thank Dong Jie, Liu Ting and Liao Yue for the help of correction with the phase modelling. This research was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants 91955202, 41572040), the Key Program of China Geological Survey, China (grant DD20190370) and the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research (STEP) program (2019QZKK0703). Hengzhe Bi wishes to acknowledge the Chinese Scholarship Council for financial support during his visit to the University of Minnesota (grant number 201906010039).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • East Kunlun Orogen
  • Proto-Tethys Ocean
  • P‒T pseudosection
  • arc setting
  • granulite terrane
  • zircon U–Pb dating


Dive into the research topics of 'HP–UHT granulites in the East Kunlun Orogen, NW China: Constraints on the transition from compression to extension in an arc setting of the Proto-Tethys Ocean'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this