The pattern of Holocene palaeoclimatic change in arid-semiarid northern China is debated. The terminal Huangqihai Lake is located at the northern margin of the modern East Asian summer monsoon and sensitive to climate change. We present here a sedimentary section from Huangqihai lake basin which comprises lacustrine and fluvial deposits and is about 8-9 m above the present lake level. Quartz optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating was employed to construct the chronology of the section. Based on the OSL chronology and the sedimentological and granulometric analysis, we conclude that (1) the Huangqihai Lake experienced a humid climate during the early part of the Holocene (from c. 10.2 +/- 1.0 to 6.7 +/- 0.7 ka) with a persistent and stable high lake level; (2) the lake level began to decline indicating aridification between 8.7 +/- 0.8 ka and 6.7 +/- 0.7 ka, and the climate was drier and deteriorating, and the lake was turned into a playa for most of the time. In summary, the climate showed a general drying trend from the early Holocene to the late Holocene.