This paper presents a review of available petrological, geochonological and geochemical data for late Mesozoic to Recent igneous rocks in the South China Sea (SCS) and adjacent regions and a discussion of their petrogeneses and tectonic implications. The integration of these data with available geophysical and other geologic information led to the following tectono-magmatic model for the evolution of the SCS region. The geochemical characteristics of late Mesozoic granitic rocks in the Pearl River Mouth Basin (PRMB), micro-blocks in the SCS, the offshore continental shelf and Dalat zone in southern Vietnam, and the Schwaner Mountains in West Kalimantan, Borneo indicate that these are mainly I-type granites plus a small amount of S-type granites in the PRMB. These granitoids were formed in a continental arc tectonic setting, consistent with the ideas proposed by Holloway (1982) and Taylor and Hayes (1980, 1983), that there existed an Andean-type volcanic arc during later Mesozoic era in the SCS region. The geochonological and geochemical characteristics of the volcanics indicate an early period of bimodal volcanism (60-43. Ma or 32. Ma) at the northern margin of the SCS, followed by a period of relatively passive style volcanism during Cenozoic seafloor spreading (37 or 30-16. Ma) within the SCS, and post-spreading volcanism (tholeiitic series at 17-8. Ma, followed by alkali series from 8. Ma to present) in the entire SCS region. The geodynamic setting of the earlier volcanics was an extensional regime, which resulted from the collision between India and Eurasian plates since the earliest Cenozoic, and that of the post-spreading volcanics may be related to mantle plume magmatism in Hainan Island. In addition, the nascent Hainan plume may have played a significant role in the extension along the northern margin and seafloor spreading in the SCS. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.