Huang Jiqing (Te-Kan)

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(b. Renshou County, Sichuan, China, 30 March 1904; d. Beijing, China, 22 March 1995),

geotectonic geology, stratigraphy, petroleum geology.

Huang Jiqing was one of the pioneers and founders of modern geology in China. His contributions covered many fields, such as regional mapping, tectonics, biostratigraphy, and the geology of oil and gas. He was elected an academician of the Academia Sinica (1948), and of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (1955). Huang was not only a versatile geologist but also an important figure in geological administration.

Huang was born into an intellectual family. His father was Huang Ruci, who ran a school with new ideas; his mother’s family name is Jiang. Huang received his early education in his father’s school. In 1924 he enrolled in the Department of Geology, Peking University, where he trained under the distinguished geologists A. W. Grabau, Weng Wenhao, and J. S. Lee. After graduating in 1928, he joined the staff of the National Geological Survey. From 1933 to 1935 Huang pursued doctoral studies at the University of Neuchâtel under the geotectonist Emil Argand. His DSc dissertation was titled Étude géologique de la Région Weissmies-Portjengrat, about which geologist Maurice Lugeon remarked: “Your account of your time spent in the Alps will forever be remembered.” Huang’s first-rate training laid the foundation for his later distinguished career. In 1936 he returned to China and was employed as chief geologist at the National Geological Survey. On 12 December that year, he married Chen Chuanjun (1908–1999). They subsequently had three children.

Huang was director of the National Geological Survey (1937–1940), president of the Geological Society of China (1938, 1979–1982), director of the Southwest Geological Bureau, China (1952), deputy director of the Academic Division of Earth Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (1954–1967), deputy president of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences (1980–1985), and its honorary president (1985–1995).

Survey Work . Huang made geological surveys of many parts of China, such as Shaanxi, Sichuan (Szechuan), Yunnan, Qinghai, and Xinjiang (Sinkiang), and the results of this work laid the foundation for the geological mapping of the country. One of the best monographs of regional geology, Huang’s Geology of Tsinlingshan and Szechuan, accompanying the Geological Map of Tsinling(1:1,000,000), was published in 1931. From the 1930s, Huang served as chief, or one of the chiefs, of several mapping programs. Under his guidance, fourteen geological maps (1:1,000,000) were compiled (1947–1951), and the first Geological Map of China (1:3,000,000) was issued in 1951. From 1960 to 1965, he supervised the editing of a set of maps (1:1,000,000), including geological maps, metallogenic maps, maps of mineral resources distribution, and geotectonic maps. In 1979 the Geotectonic Map of China(1:4,000,000) was compiled under his supervision. In 1982 he was awarded a National Scientific Award (Grade 1) for his achievement in geological mapping.

Huang’s most notable achievement in biostratigraphy was his study of the Permian. In the early 1930s he published a series of memoirs on the Permian corals and brachiopods of southern China, and used them to subdivide the Permian into the Leping, Yangxin, and Chuanshan Series, in place of the previous twofold division (1932). In the earlier classification, the lower boundary was higher than that used elsewhere in the world. But in Huang’s opinion, the so-called Chuanshan Limestone, with its characteristic fossil Pseudoschwagerina, should be placed in the Permian, not the Carboniferous. Moreover, a tripartite division of the Permian in China assisted correlation with Permian strata elsewhere, such as in Russia and North America.

Huang’s work was the first systematic study of a single geological system in China. Permian research in China subsequently made great progress, and the Leping Series (with the Changhsingian Stage at its top) is now taken as the stratotype of the Upper Permian, and the top of the Changhsingian Stage in the Meishan of Changxing (Changhsing), Zhejiang, in South China serves as the type section for the Permian-Triassic boundary (Jin et al., 2000).

Prospecting . Most oil deposits occur in marine beds. Some people thought that, because China has few Mesozoic and Quaternary marine deposits, and oil would be unlikely in Paleozoic rocks because of their strong deformation everywhere except in the west and the northwest, the country probably did not have much oil. Some investigators, including Pan Zhongxiang (1941), nevertheless pursued the idea that there might be oil deposits in continental or nonmarine source beds in China. In 1942– 1943, Huang led a group of geologists to Xinjiang to make a reconnaissance survey for oil. In a report submitted to the National Geological Survey (1947), they elaborated the idea that oil might occur in continental or nonmarine beds. In 1939 Huang discovered the first natural gas field at Shengdeng Shan, Sichuan Province. In addition, as an organizer, he contributed to the discovery of the Laochunmiao oil-bearing anticline, later the famous Yumen oilfield.

In 1954 Huang was appointed a member of the Standing Commission of the National Mineral Resources Survey, Ministry of Geology. After 1955 the survey undertook petroleum prospecting as its main task by order of the Central Government, and a strategic decision was made to carry on with the petroleum reconnaissance, not only in the west and the northwest, but also in the east. Huang called for reconnaissance work in a number of large- and medium-sized sediment basins, among which were the Ordos, Sichuan, North China Plain, and Songliao Basins. In accordance with Huang’s instruction, the first prospecting for oil in the Songliao Basin was carried on and had some promising discoveries. In 1956 a newly founded Bureau of Petroleum Geology took over from the survey, and Huang acted as engineer-in-chief. The same year, a strategic reconnaissance investigation for oil was carried out on a large scale. In 1957 a Map of Prospective Area of Oil Distribution(1:3,000,000) was completed under his guidance. In 1959 the first well in the Songliao Basin produced oil. Later, the field was named Daqing. Huang was one of the major contributors to the discovery of the Daqing Oilfield, for which he was awarded a National Scientific Award (Grade I) in 1982.

Geotectonics . Huang’s best-known achievements were in geotectonics. In 1945 he published his classic monograph, “On the Major Tectonic Forms of China,” in which he classified and illustrated the major tectonic features of China in the light of his “polycyclic theory.” In contrast to the idea that a geosynclinal system usually ended its development after only one cycle, Huang supposed that geosynclinal systems experience more than one cycle of orogenic movement. For example, the Tianshan fold-belts resulted from the movements of the Caledonian, Hercynian, and Alpine cycles. He further divided the Alpine Orogeny into three subcycles: Indosinian, Yanshan, and Himalayan. Huang’s idea about an Indosinian movement has received universal acceptance in China.

The above is a discussion of the polycyclic development of a single geosynclinal fold system in the narrow sense of Huang’s theory. More broadly, he envisaged the polycyclic development of the crust as being worldwide and throughout the greater part of geological history.

When Huang discussed the formation of fold systems, he placed emphasis on lateral forces and proposed three types of fold systems in China and contiguous areas: (1) Pacific type; (2) Pal-Asia type, which gave rise to the continent of Pal-Asia; and (3) the “Tethyan-Himalayan” type (1945). The Great Mongolian arc was supposedly formed in the Hercynian Orogeny, as a result of the southward movement of the Siberian Platform. Meanwhile, “Pal-Asia” was formed owing to interaction between the Tarim and Sino-Korean Massifs, and the interaction of these two massifs with the mid-Asian geosyncline. During the Mesozoic, when Pal-Asia was moving toward the Pacific, the Pacific region “resisted” and the circum-Pacific folds resulted. As Pal-Asia drove southward, it met the strong resistance of Gondwanaland (if Alfred Wegener was right), which was moving northward. Thus a strong tangential compression was produced and the thick sediments of the Tethys became the Tethyan-Himalayan fold system, forming the world’s greatest mountains.

In addition, Huang suggested that the formation of the Pamir-Himalayan Syntaxis was due to a powerful underthrust, which was caused by a protruding portion of the Gondwanaland. “The strongly arcuate fold systems are developed out of geosynclinal and parageosynclinal sediments. [T]he overthrusting of the fold is directed towards the foreland” (1945, pp. 114–115).

After the advent of plate tectonics, Huang combined that theory with his polycyclic theory (Yang and Oldroyd, 1989). Huang’s group was the first to plot plate suture zones on the Geotectonic Map of China(1980), and, considering the evidence from the viewpoint of global dynamics, the three types of fold systems, mentioned above, became three tectonic domains: the Pal-Asian, the Circum-Pacific, and the Tethyan (1980). In the 1980s Huang made a monographic study of the evolution of the Tethys in China and contiguous regions. Moreover, he tried to use plate tectonics to expound the mechanism of polycyclical movements of the crust. In 1983 Huang likened the separation and closure of plates (or tensional and compressional movements) to a kind of “accordion movement,” from which he and others developed the concept of “opening and closing” tectonics from the late 1980s on (Jiang, 2004), which has some similarity to the idea of John Tuzo Wilson’s cycle. Huang’s polycyclic theory was one of the most influential tectonic theories in China and is part of the mainstream of world tectonic theory.

Theory should be able to make predictions. In Huang’s view, folding belts have experienced repeated orogenic movements, with associated sedimentation, magmatic activity, metamorphism, and metallogeny. Huang predicted that oil source beds and oil reservoirs would be polygenetic. One of the most telling examples was the prediction of oil in the Junggar Basin, where the chemical properties of the Jurassic and Triassic oils were found to be different from those of the Carboniferous, implying that the oil was formed at different times and horizons in polycyclical development, and was not the result of Carboniferous oil moving upward.

Huang’s outstanding contributions to geotectonics won him renown in geological circles and he was awarded the National Scientific Award (Grade II) in 1982. Huang’s achievements were also recognized abroad. He was an honorary DSc of L’École Polytechnique Fédérale de Zurich(1980), an honorary member of the Geological Society of America (1985), and a foreign academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1988).

The author is grateful to David Oldroyd for his encouragement and assistance in the preparation of this article.



“The Permian Formations of Southern China.” Geological Memoirs (of the Geological Survey of China), Series A, 10 (1932): 1–140. In English.

“On the Major Tectonic Forms of China.” Geological Memoirs (of the Geological Survey of China), Series A, 20 (1945): 1–165. In English.

With C. C. Young, Y. C. Cheng, M. N. Bien, et al. “Report on Geological Investigation of Some Oil-Fields in Sinkiang.” Geological Memoirs (of the Geological Survey of China) Series A, 21 (1947): 1–118. In English.

Director. Geotectonics of China and Its Evolution: A Brief Illustration of the Geotectonic Map of China (1:4,000,000). Beijing: Science Publishing House, 1980. In Chinese.

Selected Works of Huang Jiqing. Vol. 2, edited by Ren Jishun and Xie Guanglian. Beijing: Geological Publishing House, 1992. In English.

Selected Works on Petroleum Geology of Huang Jiqing. Edited by Zhang Qing. Beijing: Science Press, 1993. In Chinese.


Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, ed. Papers in Memory of Huang Jiqing. Beijing: Geological Press, 1998. In Chinese.

Geological Society of China, ed. A Chronicle of Huang Jiqing’s Life. Beijing: Geological Press, 2004. In Chinese.

Jiang, Ch. F. “An Accordion Movement and ‘Opening and Closing’ Tectonics.” Geological Review 3 (2004): 267–269. In Chinese.

Jin, Y. G., Shang Q. H., and Cao C. Q. “A Review of Permian Stratigraphy.” Journal of Stratigraphy 24, no. 2 (2000): 99–108. In Chinese.

Li Tingdong. “Professor Huang Jiqing, a Pioneer in Compilation of Geological Maps of China.” Geological Review 3 (2004): 240–242. In Chinese.

Li, X. X., and J. Zh. Sheng. “Professor Huang Jiqing’s Important Contributions to the Study of the Permian of China.” Geological Review 3 (2004): 230–234. In Chinese.

Ren, J. Sh. “‘On the Major Tectonic Forms of China’—A Classic Work of Chinese Geotectonics.” Geological Review 3 (2004): 235–240. In Chinese.

Yang, J.-Y., and D. R. Oldroyd. “The Introduction and Development of Continental Drift Theory and Plate Tectonics in China: A Case Study in the Transference of Scientific Ideas from West to East.” Annals of Science 46 (1989): 21–43.

Yang Jing-Yi