The rock series, rock types and Sr~Nd isotopic dating of the Cenozoic volcanic rocks in the South China Sea are similar to those in its vicinity. On the basis of the spreading age of the South China Sea, the Cenozoic volcanic rocks are divided into three stages: the pre~spreading stage, the spreading stage and the post~spreading stage. The deep process characteristics of the asthenosphere and lithosphere may be inferred from the study on primary basaltic magma. The top layers of the asthenosphere both in the spreading stage and in the pre~spreading stage are closer to the earth surface than that in the post~spreading stage. From the pre~spreading stage to the spreading stage, the top layer of the asthenosphere decreased in depth, while the amount of interstitial partial melts increased. The evolution of the primary basaltic magma shows a progressive evolution sequence of the rifting volcanism and a faster lithospheric spreading velocity. From the spreading stage to the post~spreading stage, the top layer of the asthenosphere gradually increased in depth, but the amount of interstitial partial melts decreased. The evolution of primary basaltic magma shows a retrogressive evolution sequence of the rifting volcanism and a gradual decrease in the lithospheric spreading velocity. The depth recognized by the study on the Cenozoic volcanism demonstrates the deep environment for the formation and evolution of the South China Sea.