Carbon in rocks and its rate of exchange with the exosphere is the least understood part of the carbon cycle. The amount of carbonate subducted as sediments and ocean crust is poorly known, but essential to mass balance the cycle. We describe carbonatite melt pockets in mantle peridotite xenoliths from Dalihu (northern China), which provide firsthand evidence for the recycling of carbonate sediments within the subduction system. These pockets retain the low trace element contents and δ18OSMOW = 21.1±0.3 of argillaceous carbonate sediments, representing wholesale melting of carbonates instead of filtered recycling of carbon by redox freezing and melting. They also contain microscopic diamonds, partly transformed to graphite, indicating that depths >120 km were reached, as well as a bizarre mixture of carbides and metal alloys indicative of extremely reducing conditions. Subducted carbonates form diapirs that move rapidly upwards through the mantle wedge, reacting with peridotite, assimilating silicate minerals and releasing CO2, thus promoting their rapid emplacement. The assimilation process produces very local disequilibrium and divergent redox conditions that result in carbides and metal alloys, which help to interpret other occurrences of rock exhumed from ultra-deep conditions.