Blueschists in major suture zones of China

J. G. Liou, Xiaomin Wang, R. G. Coleman, Zh M. Zhang, S. Maruyama

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    117 Citations (Scopus)


    Blueschist facies rocks and C‐type eclogites occur as allochthonous terranes or as small tectonic blocks in almost all the accretionary fold belts and major suture zones within the interior of China and along the Circum‐Pacific and Tethys‐Himalayan belts. At least forty blueschist localities have been described. Blueschists around the Pacific margins and the Himalaya‐Alpine belts are mostly Mesozoic in age; only those in Taiwan and New Caledonia are Cenozoic. Intracratonal blueschists of China are older than Late Permian, when the collision‐amalgamation presumably occurred. Several alleged Precambrian blueschist localities [Ye, 1987] are shown in the recently published Metamorphic Map of China. A Precambrian(?) blueschist belt in Anhui‐Hubei (central China) extends for about 2300 km. However, except for the pre‐Sinian blueschist terrane in Aksu, the age determination for Precambrian blueschist metamorphism elsewhere has not been confirmed. Characteristic features of Chinese blueschists include the following: (1) blueschist facies metamorphism predates the continental collision‐amalgamation, (2) most blueschists have undergone multistage metamorphism, commonly with increasing temperature and/or decreasing pressure for later events, (3) assemblages include sodic amphibole + epidote + albite + quartz + phengite + chlorite + sphene; lawsonite, jadeitic pyroxene, and aragonite are not common, and (4) protoliths are mainly mafic, pelagic, and clastic rocks. Blueschist facies metamorphism in China may be divided into two types on the basis of the imposed geothermal gradient, hence the progressive change in mineral assemblage. The rare lawsonite‐bearing blueschists produced at lower temperatures and higher pressures are confined to the Inner Mongolia and Yarlung Zangbo suture zones where aragonite and possibly jadeitic pyroxene + quartz occur, and the blueschists are associated with subgreenschist facies rocks. Most other blueschists of China formed at higher temperatures along the transitional blueschist‐greenschist facies boundary where epidote, sodic, and calcic amphiboles are ubiquitous, and the blueschists are interlayered with greenschist facies rocks. The common occurrence of intracratonal blueschists in major suture zones of China and elsewhere in Eurasia indicates pre‐Mesozoic subduction‐accretion of oceanic crust and flysch sediments. These zones of accretion represent growth around the periphery of major Precambrian cratons. This fact, together with the distribution of ophiolite belts and available paleomagnetic data, provides evidence for an extremely mobile history of plate movement in Eurasia. However, the Paleozoic intracontinental blueschists and ophiolites of China have formed before, rather than during, final closure between cratons. They do not usually mark the location of terminal sutures but are the result of earlier accretion and continental growth by subduction, underplating, and imbrication of oceanic materials similar to the accretion history of westernmost North America.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)609-619
    Number of pages11
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 1989

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geophysics
    • Geochemistry and Petrology


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