This paper presents a comprehensive study of the zircon geochronology, geochemistry and Sr–Nd isotope geology of Devonian mafic rocks developed in the East Kunlun orogenic belt, northern Tibetan Plateau, and reveals their mantle sources, petrogenesis and geodynamic implications for continental exhumation. The zircon geochronology of typical samples indicates that these mafic rocks crystallized at 406∼408 Ma. They can be classified into two different groups based on petrographic observations and geochemical compositions. Group 1 rocks exhibit low TiO2 and FeOt contents and Nb/Y ratios and have enriched mid-ocean ridge basalt (E-MORB)-like compositions with slight negative Nb and Ta anomalies. However, Group 2 rocks have distinctly high TiO2 and FeOt contents and Nb/Y ratios, comparable to typical Fe–Ti-rich mafic rocks worldwide. All the samples exhibit weak enrichments in light rare earth elements, Nb and Ta relative to the primitive mantle. Based on geochemical and isotopic studies, Group 1 rocks are suggested to be derived from depleted asthenospheric mantle that was metasomatized by c. 3–5 % continental crustal components, while Group 2 rocks originated from partial melting of enriched lithospheric mantle. The high contents of Fe, Ti and Nb for Group 2 rocks could be attributed to a high degree of olivine crystallization under low fO2 conditions with delayed nucleation of Fe–Ti oxides. Combining those results with other geological data, we conclude that slab break-off was the key factor causing exhumation of eclogites and triggering flare-up of the Devonian magmatism, and that continental collision or continental subduction may have initiated at 431∼436 Ma.