The Jurassic Linglong granites, intrusive into the North China Craton (NCC) in eastern China, provide a critical record of the first major episode of lithospheric-scale extension and magmatism in NE China during Mesozoic time. Our U–Pb zircon dating reveals that the Linglong granites were emplaced during 161–158 Ma, shortly after the inception of a shallow subduction of the Palaeo-Pacific plate beneath East Asia during Middle Jurassic time. These granites have high alkali contents (K2O + Na2O = 8–9 wt%), low MgO and Mg no. values and variable Cr–Ni abundances. Their relatively high Ba and Sr concentrations, relatively low heavy rare Earth element (HREE) and strongly fractionated REE patterns characterize them as high Ba–Sr granites. The negative whole-rock εNd(t) values ranging from −22.4 to −10.9 and wide-ranging zircon εHf(t) values of −39.1 to −1.5 suggest that magmas of the Linglong granites were produced by partial melting of a garnet-amphibolite-bearing lower crust of the Jiaobei Terrane and by re-melting of the Triassic ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) metamorphic rocks and alkaline suites of the Sulu Terrane. The occurrence in the granitic rocks of inherited zircons of the Neoarchaean, Palaeoproterozoic, Neoproterozoic, Palaeozoic and Triassic ages suggests that magmas of the Linglong granites interacted with the ancient crust in these terranes during their ascent. Asthenospheric upwelling, induced by the steepening and rapid rollback of the Palaeo-Pacific slab during Late Jurassic time, provided the heat source for the inferred lower crustal melting. Trench migration and thermal weakening of the crust caused extensional deformation and thinning in the eastern part of the NCC.