The International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) utilises benchmark chronostratigraphies to divide geologic time. The reliability of these records is fundamental to understand past global change. Here we use the most detailed luminescence dating age model yet published to show that the ICS chronology for the Quaternary terrestrial type section at Jingbian, desert marginal Chinese Loess Plateau, is inaccurate. There are large hiatuses and depositional changes expressed across a dynamic gully landform at the site, which demonstrates rapid environmental shifts at the East Asian desert margin. We propose a new independent age model and reconstruct monsoon climate and desert expansion/contraction for the last similar to 250 ka. Our record demonstrates the dominant influence of ice volume on desert expansion, dust dynamics and sediment preservation, and further shows that East Asian Summer Monsoon (EASM) variation closely matches that of ice volume, but lags insolation by similar to 5 ka. These observations show that the EASM at the monsoon margin does not respond directly to precessional forcing.