The impact of quaternary glaciation in eastern China on local fanua and flora has been a topic of considerable interest. We used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence data and coalescent simulations to test two general biogeographic hypothesis related to the effects of Pleistocene climatic fluctuations for a widespread ophidian species (Gloydius brevicaudus) in eastern China and Korean Peninsula. The phylogenetic analysis revealed three major lineages, the southeast Coastal, Yangtze and North Lineages. The latter two are closely related and jointly form a continental lineage. Divergence dating and coalescent simulations indicate a Late Pliocene to Early Pleistocene divergence between lineages from the southeast coast and continental interior, followed by a mid-to-late Pleistocene divergence between lineages from the north and the middle–lower Yangtze Valley across East China, suggesting that all these lineages predated the last glacial maximum. An overlapping range between the two lineages within the continental lineage and a secondary contact associated with ecological transition zones on the margins of the North China Plain were also observed. These results show that vicariance patterns dominated the history of G. brevicaudus. Though the climatic events of the Pleistocene have had a marked effect on the historical distribution and intra-specific divergence of reptiles in China, coalescent and non-coalescent demographic analyses indicate that all lineages of G. brevicaudus seem not to have been adversely affected by glacial cycles during the Late Pleistocene, presumably because of an increase in the amount of climatically mild habitat in East Asia due to a decline in elevation and the development of monsoons since the Mid-End Pleistocene.