The Permian-Triassic mass extinction, one of the most severe biotic crises in Earth's history, has been attributed to sharp heating (nearly 15°C in low-latitude areas) initially triggered by massive volcanic eruptions of the Siberian Traps in the latest Permian. Drastic environmental changes have been identified worldwide, both in the sea and on land. However, the connections of global palaeoclimate changes, particularly their detection in complex terrestrial systems, remain debatable. Here, based on sedimentological and geochemical data and state-of-the-art modelling from North China, we emphasise the drastically deteriorated palaeoenvironments (e.g. unstable, drought and intermittent heavy precipitation) under a regime of sharp heating, mass wasting and acid rain on land may be significant causes of the mass killing events near the end-Permian and the subsequent Early Triassic long-lasting stressed terrestrial palaeoclimate that delayed the recovery of life. Understanding the Permian-Triassic hyperthermal crisis may also provide critical insight into similar events of different magnitudes in Earth's history, and could inform our near future, in the context of anthropogenic warming and our rapidly changing planet.