A late Mesozoic belt of volcanic-intrusive complexes occurs in Southeast China. The Qianlishan granites are distributed in the northwest of the belt. The pluton is composed of porphyritic biotite granite (153 Ma) and equigranular biotite granite (151 Ma) and was intruded by granite-porphyry dykes (144 Ma) and mafic dykes such as lamprophyre and diabase (142 Ma). The granitic rocks, consisting mainly of K-feldspar, plagioclase, quartz and Fe-rich biotite, have SiO2 contents of 72.9–76.9 %, and are enriched in alkalis, rare earth elements (REE), high field strength elements (HFSE) and Ga with high Ga/Al ratios, but depleted in Ba, Sr and transition metals. Trace-element geochemistry and Sr–Nd isotope systematics further imply that the Qianlishan granitic magmas were most probably derived by partial melting of Palaeo- to Mesoproterozoic metamorphic lower-crustal rocks that had been granulitized during an earlier thermal event. These features suggest an A-type affinity. The Qianlishan lamprophyre and neighbouring coeval mafic dykes (SiO2 = 47.9–53.8 wt %) have high MgO and compatible element contents. These rocks also have high K2O contents and are enriched in alkalis, light REE, large ion lithophile elements, and depleted in HFSE. They have low initial εNd values and relatively high initial 87Sr/86Sr ratios. We suggest a subduction-modified refractory lithospheric mantle (phlogopite-bearing harzburgite or lherzolite) for these high-Mg potassic magmas. The Qianlishan diabases (SiO2 = 48.4–48.7 wt %) are alkaline and have high TiO2 and total Fe2O3 contents, together with the positive initial εNd value, suggesting derivation from fertile asthenopheric mantle (phlogopite-bearing lherzolite). A back-arc extensional setting, related to subduction of the Palaeo-Pacific plate, is favoured to explain the petrogenesis of the Qianlishan granites and associated mafic dykes. Between 180 and 160 Ma, Southeast China was a continental arc, forming the 180–160 Ma plutons of the late Mesozoic volcanic-intrusive complex belt, and the lower-crust was granulitized. Since 160 Ma the northwestern belt has been in a back-arc extensional setting as a consequence of slab roll-back, resulting in the lithosphere thinning and an influx of asthenophere. The upwelling asthenosphere, on the one hand, induced the local lithospheric mantle to melt partially, forming high-Mg potassic magmas, and on the other hand it underwent decompression melting itself to form alkaline diabase magma. Pulsatory injection of such high-temperature magmas into the granulitized crustal source region induced them to partially melt and generate the A-type magmas of the Qianlishan granitic rocks.