Gamma-ray (GR) logging and detrital zircon geochronology provide new constraints on changing provenance in the southern Hailar Basin of northeastern China. The basement of this region is characterized by low GR values of 70-90 API. This is overlain by a rift-fill sequence, the GR values of which exhibit a broad range in its lower part (70-160 API), but a more restricted range (80-110 API) in its upper part. Post-rift sediments dominate the basin fill, and are characterized by higher GR values of 120-160 API. Detrital zircon samples from the lower rift sequence and post-rift sediments share similar age distributions, with a single dominant age population of 150-110. Ma. Samples from the upper rift sequence exhibit a bimodal age distribution with peaks at 180-150. Ma and 360-300. Ma. The synchronous changes in zircon age populations and GR values in the strata suggest changing sedimentary source characteristics, thus revealing a rapid shift from active rifting to post-rift thermal sagging of the Hailar Basin in the Early Cretaceous. The basal rift-fill deposits are interpreted to have been mainly derived from erosion of local highs internal to the basin itself, although acidic air-fall ash from the extensive late Mesozoic volcanism in the Great Xing'an Range probably also contributed. Post-rift sediments are dominated by materials shed from the Great Xing'an Range magmatic belt. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.