Psychology Of Serial Killer Personality: Yang Xinhai

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Table of contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Background, Crimes, and Personality Profile
  3. References


Yang Xinhai (2003) 'When I killed people, I had a desire. This inspired me to kill more. I don't care whether they deserve to live or not. It is none of my concern. I have no desire to be part of society. Society is not my concern' (BBC News, 2004). After Yang's trail in an interview aired on China's Central Television, this was stated by Yang Xinhai as to the question of why he murdered 67 people and raped 23 women (BBC News, 2004). This research paper is about Yang Xinhai, who was also known as Yan Liu, Yang Zhiya, and 'The Monster killer' was one of China's most infamous serial killers and serial rapists. Exploring Yang's background as a child up until the start of his crimes and his crimes and conviction to try to understand what a serial killer is and what made Yang Xinhai become one of the most infamous serial killers in China.

Background, Crimes, and Personality Profile

July 29, 1968, in Zhengyang County, Zhumadian Henan, China, Yang Xinhai was born. There is little knowledge about Yang's childhood, except that he was the youngest of four children, and his family was the most impoverished in their village. To others, he was considered an introvert and intelligent, but he did not apply himself in school (Shingh, 2018). Later, in 1985, he dropped out of school and started to travel around China to working as a general laborer at the age of 17. In 1988 and 1991, he got sentenced to re-education labor camps for crimes of theft. A few years later, in 1996, Yang was sentenced to a labor camp again this time for five years for robbery and attempted rape in Zhumadian. In 2000, he got released early; after he was released, his girlfriend found out about the attempted rape conviction and ended their relationship, leading to the start of his murder and rape spree (Shingh, 2018).

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From 1999 to 2003, Yang murdered 67 people and raped 23 women in four provinces, Anhui, Shandong, Hebei, and Henan of China. December 6, 2002, Yang killed the Zhanwei family in Liuzhuang Village of Henan's Xiping County Liu Zhanwei, his mother, wife, son, and daughter. Liu's father, 68-year-old Liu Zhongyuan, was the only family member to survive because he slept in a new house that night. Liu Zhongyuan discovered his family after the attack, Liu Zhongyuan's wife was the only one still alive when found but, died ten days after in the hospital. Yang confessed that he used an iron hammer to murder the Zhanwei, then buried the hammer near a tomb and tossed his bloody clothes into a river (China Daily, 2004). Like the Zhanwei family, Yang Xinhai broke into family's homes rape female family members then murder the entire family with a hammer, ax handle, shovel, or knife. To avoid detection from police by planning his attacks hours before, wearing different size shoes each time, disposing of his clothes, and disposing of the weapon, then buying a new one up until November 3, 2003 (Singh, 2018).

On November 3, 2003, police mounted a routine inspection on an entertainment house in the city of Cangzhou in Hebei province in China. During the investigation, Yang Xinhai was behaving uncomfortably, so the police decided to arrest him for some questioning. While in custody, DNA they gathered from Yang, which linked him to 67 murders and 23 rapes. Shortly after linking Yang to these crimes, he confessed to the murders and rapes (Singh, 2018). In 2004, in Louhe, Henan Province, China, The Louhe Intermediate People's Court, Yang was founded guilty of intentional homicide, willful and malicious injury, and pillage and rape, he was sentenced to death (China Daily, 2004). On February 14, 2004, Yang Xinhai was executed by a firing squad.

Before looking into how someone becomes a serial killer, and why first, what is a serial killer? The FBI (2010) defines a serial killer or a serial murder as the same offender(s) killing of two or more victims in separate events with similar characteristics and a period in between murders referred to as separate occasions, cooling-off period, and the emotional cooling-off period. Although not every serial killer is the same, serial killers have different motives and mos. According to the FBI (2010), motivations of a serial killer could be anger, ideology, sexual, power/trill, mental illness, criminal enterprise, or for financial benefit. Serial killers also have victim preference, selecting a victim based on vulnerability, availability, and desirably, which means preference on gender, race, age, ethnicity, physical appearance, or other specific factors (FBI, 2010).

According to the FBI (2010), there is a link between psychopathy and serial killers; Psychopathy is a personality disorder that is characterized by someone who was born lacking empathy, impulsive, manipulative, charming, and violent to fulfill one's own needs. Psychopaths and sociopaths often get mixed up, but a psychopath is thought of as born, and a sociopath is made due to the environment. However, not all violent criminals are psychopaths or sociopaths, and not all psychopaths or sociopaths are violent. Psychopathy does not fully explain what makes a serial killer; it is only a part of the explanation. When thinking of a serial killer, a common misconception is they mostly come from broken homes or have a criminal record. While that may be right for some serial killers such as Ed Kemper, who began murdering at the age of 15 and diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, On the other hand, some serial killers lived ordinary lives and were even considered outstanding members of society, such as Ted Bundy, who volunteered for the suicide hotline, politics, and a college graduate.

While looking into Yang Xinhai and what turns someone into a serial killer. Yang was no doubt a cold-blooded murderer and rapist with no remorse or regard for the victims. However, with little knowledge of his childhood, it is hard to say he was born a psychopath or product of his environment, a sociopath. If he was a psychopath, his environment still influenced him due to growing up the poorest in his village, and he grew to resent society. His resentment towards society shows in his statement in an interview after his arrest, Yang Xinhai (2003) 'When I killed people, I had a desire. This inspired me to kill more. I don't care whether they deserve to live or not. It is none of my concern. I have no desire to be part of society. Society is not my concern' (BBC, 2004). Yang's IQ is unknown; he was intelligent the way he covered up his crimes by changing shoe sizes, disposing his clothes, and the weapon immediately.

Yang Xinhai, motivated by a desire to rape kill and a deep-rooted hatred towards society, committed horrendous crimes. Yang was intelligent in covering up his crimes every time he committed one leaving only DNA, but police had no one to tie it to until his arrest in 2003. He planned hours before and covered up after the crime suggests he is organized and not impulsive, but during the crime, he was disorganized and impulsive.


  1. Asia-Pacific | China executes mass murderer. (2004, February 14). Retrieved October 25, 2019, from
  2. Man faces death after killing 67. (2004, February 2). China Daily. Retrieved from
  3. Serial Murder. (2010, May 21). Retrieved from
  4. Singh, H. R. (2018). YANG XINHAI China’s Worst Serial Killer. YANG XINHAI China’s Worst Serial Killer. Retrieved from
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