Elucidating the environmental drivers of selenium (Se) spatial distribution in soils at a continental scale is essential to better understand it's biogeochemical cycling to improve Se transfer into diets. Through modelling Se biogeochemistry in China we found that deposition and volatilization are key factors controlling distribution in surface soil, rather than bedrock-derived Se (<0.1 mg/kg). Wet deposition associated with the East Asian summer monsoon, and dry deposition associated with the East Asian winter monsoon, are responsible for dominant Se inputs into northwest and southeast China, respectively. In Central China the rate of soil Se volatilization is similar to that of Se deposition, suggesting that Se volatilization offsets it's deposition, resulting in negligible net Se input in soil. Selenium in surface soil at Central China is roughly equal to low petrogenic Se, which is the main reason for the presence of the Se poor belt. We suggest that both deposition and volatilization of Se could play a key role in Se balance in other terrestrial environments worldwide.