Well-preserved, abundant radiolarians provide high-precision biostratigraphic age constraints on the timing of the eruption of ophiolitic basalts exposed along the Yarlung–Tsangpo suture zone in southern Tibet. Dazhuqu terrane ophiolites were generated in an intra-oceanic supra-subduction zone setting within a relatively short (<10 Ma) interval from late Barremian to late Aptian. Accumulation of sediments upon the newly generated ophiolite initially occurred in a series of discrete rift-controlled sub-basins associated with various spreading centres. An increasing flux of arc-derived volcaniclastic sediment up-section indicates nearby volcanic arc activity. The Dazhuqu terrane developed in an intra-oceanic setting within Tethys where it was isolated from any continental influence.