3-D VP and VS models for the crust and upper mantle beneath the Taiwan area have been determined using selected high-resolution earthquake data from an island-wide seismic network and two local seismic arrays. Lateral structural variations in the upper crust, as also evident from surface geology, are responsible for the observed large traveltime residuals or station corrections. Prior shallow velocity information inferred from traveltime residuals and joint hypocentral determination (JHD) station corrections for the uppermost crust is essential to facilitate a reliable tomographic inversion. A finite-difference method, that is efficient and accurate for a highly heterogeneous velocity structure, is applied to calculate P- and S-wave traveltimes from the source to receiving stations. All earthquakes in the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau's catalogue are then relocated using the resultant 3-D VP and VS models. The depth of the Moho varies significantly, especially along the east–west direction. In the western Coastal Plain and Western Foothills the depth of the Moho is around 35 km, which deepens gradually eastward, reaches a maximum depth of ∼55 km beneath the eastern Central Mountain Range, shallows up rapidly beneath the Longitudinal Valley and Coastal Range, and merges with the thin Philippine Sea Plate offshore of eastern Taiwan. In central Taiwan, the Central Mountain Range is bounded to the east and west by two steeply westward dipping active faults from the upper crust to a depth of about 30 km. Therefore, the uplifted and thickened Central Mountain Range serves as a backstop for the converging Eurasian and Philippine Sea plates. The crust beneath the Central Mountain Range is characterized by a brittle, high-velocity and seismically active upper crust (<15 km) and a ductile, low-velocity and aseismic mid-to-lower crust (below 15 km), most probably due to the high geothermal activity from the excess heat supplied from the hot upper mantle beneath the thin oceanic crust to the east, from the surrounding hotter upper mantle beneath the thickened continental crust, and from shear heating during active collision. The collision zone in eastern Taiwan is characterized by an active and steeply eastward dipping seismic zone along a region of low VP and high VP/VS ratio near the Taitung region in southeastern Taiwan. It transforms into an active westward steeply dipping seismic zone along a transition zone between the high VP and VS oceanic crust and the low VP and VS continental crust near Hualien region in central eastern Taiwan. There is no apparent seismicity within many sedimentary basins imaged from the tomographic inversion. However, a few basins are either bounded on one side by an active fault or are characterized by blind faults beneath. The geometry of the subduction zone in northeastern Taiwan can be clearly imaged from the relocated earthquake locations. Behind the subduction, a region of low VP and high VP/VS ratio at depths of 5 to 10 km can be identified beneath the Tatun-Chilung volcano group indicating a potential magma reservoir. Two steeply dipping linear seismic zones in the volcano region may mark the upward escape paths of the magmatic materials in the region.