Abstract High-rate GPS positioning has been recognized as a powerful tool in estimating epoch-wise station displacement which is particularly useful for seismology. In this study, station displacements during the 12 May 2008 M w 8.0 Wenchuan earthquake are derived from the 1-Hz GPS data collected at a set of stations in China. The impacts of integer ambiguity resolution and station environment-dependent effects are investigated in order to yield more accurate results. The position accuracy of horizontal components of better than 1 cm suggests that GPS can sense the rapid position oscillation of about 2 cm in amplitude. Temporal and spatial analysis is applied to the surface displacement at station XANY and the characteristics of the movements due to Rayleigh and Love waves are detected and discussed. The comparison of GPS-derived displacement with relevant synthetic data computed based on a recently published rapture model shows a reasonable agreement in waveform. The various differences in amplitude need further investigation and also imply that rapture inversion might be improved if GPS-derived displacement is assimilated.