The shallow seismic velocity structure of the Kunlun fault zone (KLFZ) was jointly deduced from seismic refraction profiling and the records of trapped waves that were excited by five explosions. The data were collected after the 2001 Kunlun M s8.1 earthquake in the northern Tibetan Plateau. Seismic phases for the in-line record sections (26 records up to a distance of 15 km) along the fault zone were analysed, and 1-D P- and S-wave velocity models of shallow crust within the fault zone were determined by using the seismic refraction method. Sixteen seismic stations were deployed along the off-line profile perpendicular to the fault zone. Fault-zone trapped waves appear clearly on the record sections, which were simulated with a 3-D finite difference algorithm. Quantitative analysis of the correlation coefficients of the synthetic and observed trapped waveforms indicates that the Kunlun fault-zone width is 300 m, and S-wave quality factor Q within the fault zone is 15. Significantly, S-wave velocities within the fault zone are reduced by 30-45 per cent from surrounding rocks to a depth of at least 1-2 km, while P-wave velocities are reduced by 7-20 per cent. A fault-zone with such P- and S-low velocities is an indication of high fluid pressure because Vs is affected more than Vp. The low-velocity and low-Q zone in the KLFZ model is the effect of multiple ruptures along the fault trace of the 2001 M s8.1 Kunlun earthquake. ?? 2009 The Authors Journal compilation ?? 2009 RAS.