Jurassic sandstones in the Xiongcun porphyry copper–gold district, southern Lhasa subterrane, Tibet, China were analysed for petrography, major oxides and trace elements, as well as detrital zircon U–Pb and Hf isotopes, to infer their depositional age, provenance, intensity of source-rock palaeo-weathering and depositional tectonic setting. This new information provides important evidence to constrain the tectonic evolution of the southern Lhasa subterrane during the Late Triassic – Jurassic period. The sandstones are exposed in the lower and upper sections of the Xiongcun Formation. Their average modal abundance (Q21F11L68) classifies them as lithic arenite, which is also supported by geochemical studies. The high chemical index of alteration values (77.19–85.36, mean 79.96) and chemical index of weathering values (86.19–95.59, mean 89.98) of the sandstones imply moderate to intensive weathering of the source rock. Discrimination diagrams based on modal abundance, geochemistry and certain elemental ratios indicate that felsic and intermediate igneous rocks constitute the source rocks, probably with a magmatic arc provenance. The detrital zircon ages (161–243 Ma) and εHf(t) values (+10.5 to +16.2) further constrain the sandstone provenance as subduction-related Triassic–Jurassic felsic and intermediate igneous rocks from the southern Lhasa subterrane. A tectonic discrimination method based on geochemical data of the sandstones, as well as detrital zircon ages from sandstones, reveals that the sandstones were most likely deposited in an oceanic island-arc setting. These results support the hypothesis that the tectonic background of the southern Lhasa subterrane was an oceanic island-arc setting, rather than a continental island-arc setting, during the Late Triassic – Jurassic period.