[Correction added after online publication 3 August 2010 - ‘prelate’ has been changed to ‘pre-late’ throughout the text]. Using apatite fission track and (U-Th-Sm)/He thermochronology, we report the low-temperature thermal history of the Mesozoic Micang Shan Foreland Basin system, central China. This system, comprising the Hannan Dome hinterland, the northern Sichuan Foreland Basin and the intermediate frontal thrust belt (FB), shares a common boundary with three major tectonic terrains – Mesozoic Qinling-Dabie Orogen, Mesozoic Sichuan Foreland Basin and Cenozoic elevated Tibetan Plateau. Results show: (1) a relatively rapid pre-late Cretaceous cooling episode in the Hannan Dome; (2) a mid-Cenozoic cooling phase (ca. 50°C at ca. 30 ± 5 Ma) within the northern Sichuan Basin; and (3) possible late Cenozoic cooling (ca. 25°C at ca. 16 ± 4 Ma) within the Hannan Dome-FB, a phase which has also been reported previously from adjacent regions. The pre-late Cretaceous cooling episode in the Hannan Dome is attributed to coeval tectonism in nearby regions. Mid-Cenozoic cooling in the northern Sichuan Basin can possibly be attributed to either one of or a combination of shortening of the basin, onset of the Asian monsoon and drainage adjustment of the Yangtze River system, all of which are related to growth of the Tibetan Plateau. Possible late Cenozoic cooling in the hinterland and nearby regions is also probably related to the northeastward growth of the Tibetan Plateau. However, previous studies suggest a northeastward propagation for onset of cooling from the eastern Tibetan Plateau to western Qinling in response to northeastward lower crust flow from the central Tibetan Plateau. The timing of apparent late Cenozoic cooling in the Hannan Dome hinterland, at an intermediate locality, is not consistent with this trend, and supports a previous model suggesting northeastern growth of the Tibetan Plateau through reactivation of WE trending strike-slip faults.