A traverse through the western Kunlun (Xinjiang, China): Tentative geodynamic implications for the Paleozoic and Mesozoic

F. Mattern*, W. Schneider, Y. Li, X. Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


The northern part of the western Kunlun (southern margin of the Tarim basin) represents a Sinian rifted margin. To the south of this margin, the Sinian to Paleozoic Proto-Tethys Ocean formed. South-directed subduction of this ocean, beneath the continental southern Kunlun block during the Paleozoic, resulted in the collision between the northern and southern Kunlun blocks during the Devonian. The northern part of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean, located to the south of the southern Kunlun, was subducted to the north beneath the southern Kunlun during the Late Paleozoic to Early Mesozoic. This caused the formation of a subduction-accretion complex, including a sizeable accretionary wedge to the south of the southern Kunlun. A microcontinent (or oceanic plateau?), which we refer to as "Uygur terrane," collided with the subduction complex during the Late Triassic. Both elements together represent the Kara-Kunlun. Final closure of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean took place during the Early Jurassic when the next southerly located continental block collided with the Kara-Kunlun area. From at least the Late Paleozoic to the Early Jurassic, the Tarim basin must be considered a back-arc region. The Kengxiwar lineament, which "connects" the Karakorum fault in the west and the Ruoqiang-Xingxingxia/Altyn-Tagh fault zone in the east, shows signs of a polyphase strikeslip fault along which dextral and sinistral shearing occurred.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-722
Number of pages18
JournalGeologische Rundschau
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1996


  • Accretion mylonites
  • China
  • Kara-Kunlun
  • Kengxiwar lineament
  • Kudi ophiolite
  • Kunlun
  • Paleo-Tethys
  • Plate tectonics
  • Proto-Tethys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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