The Gubaoquan eclogite occurs in the Paleozoic Beishan Orogen of NW China. Previously it has been interpreted as a fragment of subducted oceanic crust that was emplaced as a mélange within continental rocks. Contrary to this, we demonstrate that the Gubaoquan eclogite protolith was a Neoproterozoic basic dyke/sill which intruded into Proterozoic continental rocks. The SHRIMP U–Pb zircon dating of the metamorphic rims of the Gubaoquan eclogite yields an age 466 ± 27 Ma. Subdued heavy rare earth element abundances and lack of negative Eu anomalies of the metamorphic zircon domains confirm that this age represents eclogite facies metamorphism. The host augen orthogneiss has a U–Pb zircon age of 920 ± 14 Ma, representing the timing of crystallization of the granitic protolith. A leucogranitic vein which intrudes the eclogite has a U–Pb zircon age of 424 ± 8.6 Ma. This granitic vein marks the end of high-grade metamorphism in this area. The overcomplication of tectonic history of the Beishan Orogen is partially caused by inconsistent classifications and nomenclature of the same rock units and arbitrary subdivisions of Precambrian blocks as individual microcontinents. In an attempt to resolve this, we propose a simpler model that involves the partial subduction of the northern passive margin of the Dunhuang Block beneath the active continental margin developing on the Mazongshan-Hanshan Block to the north. Ocean closure and continental collision during the Late Ordovician resulted in continental thickening and eclogite facies metamorphism recorded by the mafic dykes/sills (now the Gubaoquan eclogite). In the light of the new data, the tectonothermal evolution of the Beishan Orogen is reviewed and integrated with the evolution of the Central Asian Orogenic Belt.