Pretrained vision-language models, such as CLIP, have demonstrated strong generalization capabilities, making them promising tools in the realm of zero-shot visual recognition. Visual relation detection (VRD) is a typical task that identifies relationship (or interaction) types between object pairs within an image. However, naively utilizing CLIP with prevalent class-based prompts for zero-shot VRD has several weaknesses, e.g., it struggles to distinguish between different fine-grained relation types and it neglects essential spatial information of two objects. To this end, we propose a novel method for zero-shot VRD: RECODE, which solves RElation detection via COmposite DEscription prompts. Specifically, RECODE first decomposes each predicate category into subject, object, and spatial components. Then, it leverages large language models (LLMs) to generate description-based prompts (or visual cues) for each component. Different visual cues enhance the discriminability of similar relation categories from different perspectives, which significantly boosts performance in VRD. To dynamically fuse different cues, we further introduce a chain-of-thought method that prompts LLMs to generate reasonable weights for different visual cues. Extensive experiments on four VRD benchmarks have demonstrated the effectiveness and interpretability of RECODE.