This work presents sedimentological observations and interpretations on three detailed sections of the Pliocene Yutengping/Ailiaochiao formations, deposited in the early stages of collision in Taiwan. Seven facies associations record paleoenvironments of deposition ranging from nearshore to lower offshore with a strong influence of tidal reworking, even in shelfal sub-tidal environments, and a pro-delta setting characterized by mass-flows. The association of shallow facies of the upper offshore to lower shoreface with pro-delta turbidite fades sourced in the orogen to the east suggests a peculiar setting in which turbidite deposition occurred below wave base but on the shelf, in water depths of probably less than 100 m. This adds to the examples of "shallow turbidites" increasingly commonly found in foreland basins and challenges the classical view of a "deep" early underfilled foreland basin. Time series analysis on tidal rhythmites allow us to identify a yearly signal in the form of periodic changes of sand-supply, energy and bioturbation that suggests a marked seasonality possibly affecting precipitation and sediment delivery as well as temperature. The Taiwan foreland basin may also present a potentially high-resolution record in shallow sediments of the early installation of monsoonal circulation patterns in east Asia. We confirm partly the paleogeography during the early stages of collision in Taiwan: the Chinese margin displayed a pronounced non-cylindrical geometry with a large basement promontory to the west in place of the modern Taiwan mountain range. Collision in Taiwan may have happened at once along the whole length of the modern mountain range, instead of progressively from north to south as classically considered. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.