The tectonic history and time of closure of the Palaeo-Asian ocean of the Altaids are issues of lively current debate. To address these issues, this paper presents detailed geological, petrological and geochemical data of the Liuyuan complex (LC) in the Beishan region in NW China, located in the southernmost Altaids, in order to constrain its age, origin and tectonic setting. The LC mainly comprises massive basalts, pillow basalts, basaltic breccias, gabbros and ultramafic rocks together with cherts and tuffs. Most prominent are gabbros and large volumes of basaltic lavas. These mafic rocks have high TiO2 contents, flat rare earth element (REE) patterns and show high-field-strength elements (HFSEs) similar to those of mid-ocean ridge basalts (MORB). The mafic rocks exhibit positive εNd(t) (6.6–9.0) values, representing magmas derived from the mantle. But these basic rocks are also enriched in Th relative to REEs, and are systematically depleted in Nb–Ta–(Ti) relative to REEs. There is also a large range in initial 87Sr/86Sr (0.7037–0.7093). All these variables indicate that mantle-derived magma was contaminated by fluids and/or melts from a subducting lithospheric slab, and formed in a supra-subduction zone (SSZ) setting. A gabbro intruded in the complex was dated by LA-ICP-MS on 20 zircons that yielded a 206Pb–238U weighted average age of 286 ± 2 Ma. Considering the fact that all these basalts are imbricated against Permian tuffaceous sediments and limestone, we propose that the LC formed as an ophiolite in a fore-arc in Carboniferous–Permian time. This indicates that the Palaeo-Asian ocean still existed at 286 ± 2 Ma in early Permian time, and thus the time of closure of the Palaeo-Asian ocean was in or after the late Permian.