Abstract We surveyed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence variation in the subfamily Xenocyprinae from China and used these data to estimate intraspecific, interspecific, and intergeneric phylogeny and assess biogeographic scenarios underlying the geographic structure of lineages. We sequenced 1140 bp of cytochrome b from 30 individuals of Xenocyprinae and one putative outgroup ( Myxocypris asiaticus) and also sequenced 297 bp of ND4L, 1380 bp of ND4, 68 bp of tRNA His, and 69 bp of tRNA Ser from 17 individuals of Xenocyprinae and the outgroup ( M. asiaticus). We detected high levels of nucleotide variation among populations, species, and genera. The phylogenetic analysis suggested that Distoechodon hupeinensis might be transferred to the genus Xenocypris, the taxonomic status of the genus Plagiognathops might be preserved, and species of Xenocypris and Plagiognathops form a monophyletic group that is sister to the genus Distoechodon and Pseudobrama. The introgressive hybridization might occur among the populations of X. argentea and X. davidi, causing the two species to not be separated by mtDNA patterns according to their species identification, and the process and direction of hybridization are discussed. The spatial distributions of mtDNA lineages among populations of Xenocypris were compatible with the major geographic region, which indicated that the relationship between Hubei + Hunan and Fujian is closer than that between Hubei + Hunan and Sichuan. From a perspective of parasite investigation, our data suggested that the fauna of Hexamita in Xenocyprinae could be used to infer the phylogeny of their hosts.