The lower Palaeozoic marine succession of NE Vietnam accumulated on the South China plate. Despite historical works dating to French colonial times, the stratigraphy and palaeontology of the succession is poorly constrained. Chief amongst the lower Palaeozoic lithostratigraphical divisions is the Than Sa Formation, a c. 1200 m thick succession of clastic rocks of Cambrian and early Ordovician age. Newly collected graptolites (including Rhabdinopora? sp. and Tetragraptus approximatus) from the upper part of the formation identify strata assignable to the Tremadocian and Floian stages of the Lower Ordovician. The same succession also probably records the Cambrian–Ordovician boundary. Our analysis identifies one or more intervals of graptolite-bearing laminated mudstones in the upper part of the Than Sa Formation that may be widespread in NE Vietnam during the early Tremadocian.