Abstract This paper gives a general outline of the Upper Precambrian (Sinian Suberathem) in China, including its geographic distribution, development, stratigraphic sequence and classification. The Sinian Suberathem, with a time range of 1950-615 Ma, constitutes the greater part of the Proterozoic. It is characterized by the development of stromatolites, appearance of eukaryotes and the presence of metazoa in its upper part. Its sedimentological characteristics are quite similar to those of the overlying Paleozoic. On the basis of the biological evolution, isotopic dating and stages of tectonic development, the Sinian Suberathem can be divided into four systems, in ascending order: the Changcheng (ca. 1950-1400 Ma), Jixian (ca. 1400-1000 Ma), Qingbaikou (ca. 100–800 Ma) and Sinian (ca. 800-615 Ma) Systems. The stratotype for the first three systems is located in Jixian County, and the type section for the Sinian System in the Yangzi Gorges area. The contact between the Sinian and Cambrian Systems is, in some places, a continuous transition, with abundant small shelly fauna above the Precambrian—Cambrian boundary, e.g. in the Yangzi Gorges, Yunnan and Sichuan. With regard to sedimentological characteristics, the rocks of the Sinian Suberathem may be subdivided into three main facies, such as: (1) carbonate facies of stable region; (2) volcanic—sedimentary facies of mobile zones; and (3), argillo-arenaceous—carbonate facies of transitional zones. Progress in the study on the succession of the Sinian Suberathem has been made in recent years in regard to palaeontology, stratigraphy, isotopic geochronology, magnetostratigraphy, and palaeoglaciology. They provide important evidence for the stratigraphic correlation of the Upper Precambrian of China and other continents.