Dead wood is a habitat for many insects and other small animals, some of which may be rare or endangered and in need of effective protection. In this paper, saproxylic beetle assemblages associated with different host trees in the subtropical forests in southwestern China were investigated. A total of 277 species (1 439 specimens) in 36 beetle families were collected from 117 dead wood samples, of which 101 samples were identified and respectively belonged to 12 tree genera. The number of saproxylic beetle species varied greatly among logs of different tree genera, with the highest diversity on logs of Juglans. Generally, broad-leaved trees had a higher richness and abundance of saproxylic species than coniferous trees. Cluster analysis revealed that assemblages from broad-leaved tree genera were generally similar (except for Betula) and assemblages from coniferous trees formed another distinct cluster. The subsequent indicator analysis proposed that there are different characteristic species for different cluster groups of host tree genera. In our study, log diameter has no positive influence on beetle species density. Conversely, comparisons of individual-based rarefaction curves suggested that beetle species richness was highest in the small diameter class both in coniferous and broad-leaved tree genera. With increased wood decay, proportion of habitat specialists (saproxylic beetles living on one tree genus) decreased, whereas proportion of habitat generalists (living on more than three tree genera) increased. The beetle species density was found to be higher in early stages, and decreased in later stages as well. A negative influence of altitude on saproxylic beetle species richness and abundance was detected. It was indicated that different tree genera and altitudes possibly display cross effects in modulating the altitudinal distribution and host preference of the beetles.