The Gongga Shan batholith of eastern Tibet, previously documented as a ca. 32–12.8 Ma granite pluton, shows some of the youngest U-Pb granite crystallization ages recorded from the Tibetan Plateau, with major implications for the tectonothermal history of the region. Field observations indicate that the batholith is composite; some localities show at least seven crosscutting phases of granitoids that range in composition from diorite to leucocratic monzogranite. In this study we present U-Pb ages of zircon and allanite dated by laser ablation–inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry on seven samples, to further investigate the chronology of the batholith. The age data constrain two striking tectonic-plutonic events: a complex Triassic–Jurassic (ca. 215–159 Ma) record of biotite-hornblende granodiorite, K-feldspar megacrystic granite and leucogranitic plutonism, and a Miocene (ca. 14–5 Ma) record of monzonite-leucogranite emplacement. The former age range is attributed to widespread Indosinian tectonism, related to Paleo-Tethyan subduction zone magmatism along the western Yangtze block of south China. The younger component may be related to localized partial melting (muscovite dehydration) of thickened Triassic flysch-type sediments in the Songpan-Ganze terrane, and are among the youngest crustal melt granites exposed on the Tibetan Plateau. Zircon and allanite ages reflect multiple crustal remelting events; the youngest, ca. 5 Ma, resulted in dissolution and crystallization of zircons and growth and/or resetting of allanites. The young garnet, muscovite, and biotite leucogranites occur mainly in the central part of the batholith and adjacent to the eastern margin of the batholith at Kangding, where they are cut by the left-lateral Xianshui-he fault. The Xianshui-he fault is the most seismically active strike-slip fault in Tibet and is thought to record the eastward extrusion of the central part of the Tibetan Plateau. The fault obliquely cuts all granites of the Gongga Shan massif and has a major transpressional component in the Kangding-Moxi region. The course of the Xianshui Jiang river is offset by ∼62 km along the Xianshui-he fault and in the Kangding area granites as young as ca. 5 Ma are cut by the fault. Our new geochronological data show that only a part of the Gongga Shan granite batholith is composed of young (Miocene) melt, and we surmise that as most of eastern Tibet is composed of Precambrian–Triassic Indosinian rocks, there is no geological evidence to support regional Cenozoic internal thickening or metamorphism and no evidence for eastward-directed lower crustal flow away from Tibet. We suggest that underthrusting of Indian lower crust north as far as the Xianshui-he fault resulted in Cenozoic uplift of the eastern plateau.
- Received 29 July 2015.
- Revision received 7 March 2016.
- Accepted 8 April 2016.
- © 2016 Geological Society of America