A speleothem record from south-western China characterizes in detail the millennial-scale changes in Asian Monsoon (AM) intensity from 39.3 to 28.7 ka. The calcite δ18O profile, with an average resolution of ∼8 years, shows several strong monsoon events concurrent with Greenland Interstadials (GIS) 8–4. To gain a systematic perspective of AM millennial-scale variability, the new and previously reported data from the same cave are combined, showing that AM variation exhibits a broad similarity with Greenland ice δ18O records and with Antarctica but in an opposite sense. For the interval that encompasses GIS 5 and GIS 4.1, however, our stalagmite δ18O record depicts a sustained strong monsoon with no distinctive oscillation between these interstadials. Another prominent characteristic in our record is a gradual transition into Chinese Interstadial (CIS) 8, which is well constrained by an annually laminated sequence. We find that an initial rise in monsoon intensity, lasting a few centuries, significantly precedes the abrupt onset of CIS 8 in the AM realm. This suggests that atmospheric moisture and heat transport are probably capable of inducing abrupt climate change when a rapid reorganization of ocean/atmosphere circulations passes a tipping point.