A review of the vertebrates within the Silurian and Devonian of China suggests a more detailed picture of palaeobiogeographical distribution than previously possible. Although the localities are commonly in rocks of continental aspect, marine formations also are present nearby. Of over 60 agnathan and fish genera known, only 5 placoderms (Givetian--Famennian) are cosmopolitan. Endemic patterns of distribution within China relate to the well-known tectonic (basinal or platformal) regions. Silurian vertebrates occur in southern, eastern and western parts of the country and are familiar from horizons as low as Llandovery. Devonian vertebrates include a wide range of endemic forms, which provide evidence of more than six distinct biostratigraphic assemblages in South China and five biogeographical realms.