Abstract The Precambrian basement of northern Wuyishan (southern Zhejiang Province, eastern Cathaysia Block, South China), consists mainly of Paleoproterozoic granites and metamorphic rocks of the Badu Complex, which are the oldest rocks found in the Cathaysia Block. LA-ICPMS zircon U–Pb ages for a gneiss and five gneissic granites from the Tianhou, Danzhu, Xiaji and Lizhuang plutons indicate that magmatism and metamorphism took place between 1888 and 1855 Ma. The Xiaji (1888 ± 7 Ma) and Lizhuang (1875 ± 9 Ma) granites have high SiO 2, K 2O and Rb contents, high A/CNK (1.09–1.40) and Rb/Sr, and low contents of Sr, REE and mafic components (Mg, Fe, Ti, Mn and other transition metals). They have the geochemical signature of S-type granites, and a sedimentary protolith is confirmed by the presence of abundant inherited zircons with a range of ages and Hf-isotope compositions. The Tianhou and Danzhu granites are metaluminous to weakly peraluminous (A/CNK = 0.80–1.07), and have low SiO 2 contents, high Ga/Al and FeO/(FeO + MgO) ratios, and Zn and HFSE concentrations typical of A-type granites. They also record high crystallization temperatures (885–920 °C), consistent with A-type granites. High Y/Nb ratios (>1.4) indicate that they belong to the A 2 subgroup, suggesting that they probably formed in a post-orogenic tectonic setting. Their ages range from 1867 to 1855 Ma, slightly later than the syn-collisional Lizhuang and Xiaji S-type granites. These granitic rocks and the metamorphic rocks of the Badu Complex define a late Paleoproterozoic orogenic cycle in the area. All the 1.86–1.90 Ga zircons, whether derived from S- or A-type granites, show similar Hf-isotopic compositions, with Hf model ages clustering at ∼2.8 Ga. These model ages, and inherited zircons (ca. 2.5–2.7 Ga) found in some rocks, indicate that the late Paleoproterozoic magmatism and tectonism of the eastern Cathaysia Block represent an overprint on an Archaean basement. This Paleoproterozoic orogeny in the Wuyishan terrane coincides with the assembly of the supercontinent Columbia, suggesting that the Wuyishan terrane was the part of this supercontinent. Zircon ages also record an early Mesozoic (Triassic) tectonothermal overprint that was very intensive in the northern Wuyishan area, leading to high-grade metamorphism of Paleoproterozoic basement, Pb loss from Paleoproterozoic zircons and overgrowth of new zircon. The central and southern parts of Wuyishan and the Chencai area (northern Zhejiang Province) also experienced strong reworking in Neoproterozoic and early Paleozoic times. The Wuyishan terrane (especially in the north) represents a long-lived remnant of the old craton, which has survived for at least one billion years. The compositions of the basement rocks, the Paleoproterozoic orogeny and the Triassic tectonothermal imprint in the Wuyishan terrane are similar to those recognized in the Yeongnam massif of South Korea, suggesting that the two terranes may have been connected from Paleoproterozoic to Triassic time.