On 9 July 2009, an Ms6.0 earthquake occurred in mountainous area of Yao’an in Yunnan province of Southern China. Although the magnitude of the earthquake was moderate, it attracted the attention of many Earth scientists because of its threat to the safety of the population and its harm to the local economy. However, the source parameters remain poorly understood due to the sparse distribution of seismic and GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) stations in this mountainous region. Therefore, in this study, the two L-band ALOS (Advanced Land Observing Satellite-1) PALSAR (Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar) images from an ascending track is used to investigate the coseismic deformation field, and further determine the location, fault geometry and slip distribution of the earthquake. The results show that the Yao’an earthquake was a strike-slip event with a down-dip slip component. The slip mainly occurred at depths of 3–8 km, with a maximum slip of approximately 70 cm at a depth of 6 km, which is shallower than the reported focal depth of ~10 km. An analysis of the seismic activity and tectonics of the Yao’an area reveals that the 9 July 2009 Yao’an earthquake was the result of regional stress accumulation, which eventually led to the rupture of the northwestern most part of the Maweijing fault.