Synthesis analyses were performed to examine characteristics of tidal and subtidal currents at eight mooring sites deployed over the northern South China Sea (NSCS) continental shelf in the 2006–2007 and 2009–2010 winters. Rotary spectra and harmonic analysis results showed that observed tidal currents in the NSCS were dominated by baroclinic diurnal tides with phases varying both vertically and horizontally. This feature was supported by the CC-FVCOM results, which demonstrated that the diurnal tidal flow over this shelf was characterized by baroclinic Kelvin waves with vertical phase differences varying in different flow zones. The northeasterly wind-induced southwestward flow prevailed over the NSCS shelf during winter, with episodic appearances of mesoscale eddies and a bottom-intensified buoyancy-driven slope water intrusion. The moored current records captured a warm-core anticyclonic eddy, which originated from the southwestern coast of Taiwan and propagated southwestward along the slope consistent with a combination of ?-plane and topographic Rossby waves. The eddy was surface-intensified with a swirl speed of >50 cm/s and a vertical scale of ?400 m. In absence of eddies and onshore deep slope water intrusion, the observed southwestward flow was highly coherent with the northeasterly wind stress. Observations did not support the existence of the permanent wintertime South China Sea Warm Current (SCSWC). The definition of SCSWC, which was based mainly on thermal wind calculations with assumed level of no motion at the bottom, needs to be interpreted with caution since the observed circulation over the NSCS shelf in winter included both barotropic and baroclinic components.