How was Taiwan created?

Jean Claude Sibuet, Shu Kun Hsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

254 Scopus citations


Since the beginning of formation of proto-Taiwan during late Miocene (9 Ma), the subducting Philippine (PH) Sea plate moved continuously through time in the N307° direction at a 5.6 cm/year velocity with respect to Eurasia (EU), tearing the Eurasian plate. Strain states within the EU crust are different on each side of the western PH Sea plate boundary (extensional in the Okinawa Trough and northeastern Taiwan versus contractional for the rest of Taiwan Island). The B feature corresponds to the boundary between the continental and oceanic parts of the subducting Eurasian plate and lies in the prolongation of the ocean-continent boundary of the northern South China Sea. Strain rates in the Philippines to northern Taiwan accretionary prism are similar on each side of B (contractional), though with different strain directions, perhaps in relation with the change of nature of the EU slab across B. Consequently, in the process of Taiwan mountain building, the deformation style was probably not changing continuously from the Manila to the Ryukyu subduction zones. The Luzon intra-oceanic arc only formed south of B, above the subducting Eurasian oceanic lithosphere. North of B, the Luzon arc collided with EU simultaneously with the eastward subduction of a portion of EU continental lithosphere beneath the Luzon arc. In its northern portion, the lower part of the Luzon arc was subducting beneath Eurasia while the upper part accreted against the Ryukyu forearc. Among the consequences of such a simple geodynamic model: (i) The notion of continuum from subduction to collision might be questioned. (ii) Traces of the Miocene volcanic arc were never found in the southwestern Ryukyu arc. We suggest that the portion of EU continental lithosphere, which has subducted beneath the Coastal Range, might include the Miocene Ryukyu arc volcanoes formed west of 126°E longitude and which are missing today. (iii) The 150-km-wide oceanic domain located south of B between the Luzon arc and the Manila trench, above the subducting oceanic EU plate (South China Sea) was progressively incorporated into the EU plate north of B.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-181
Number of pages23
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - 13 Feb 2004


  • Geodynamic model
  • Kinematics
  • Seismicity
  • Taiwan
  • Tectonics
  • Tomography


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