Investigations of geomorphology and sedimentology, and analyses of radiocarbon dates, grain size and carbonate of the sediment at the present-dry closed basin in the terminal area of Shiyang River in arid China were conducted to recover the history of palaeolake change since the last glacial. The terminal area was covered by eolian sand before 13,000 14C BP. Lacustrine deposits covered the eolian sand after 13,000 14C BP, but were succeeded rapidly by eolian or fluvial deposits ca. 11,200-10,000 BP. This fact plus the grain-size distribution and CaCO3 content showed that climate was extremely dry during the last glacial, but wet-dry oscillations characterized the late glacial. A single coalescent lake, over 45 m deep and 2130 km2, formed between 10,000-6400 14C BP in the basin. The lake disintegrated into several shallow carbonate lakes or swamps gradually after 6400 14C BP. Eolian sand reached into the most part of the basin during the period. The lake evolution in the area generally reflects the East Asian summer monsoon history forced by Northern hemisphere insolation. Short time-scale lake fluctuations also existed in the area since the last glacial. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.