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This Article Contains Spoilers - WARNING: This article contains major spoilers. If you do not wish to know vital information on plot / character elements in a story, you may not wish to read beyond this warning: We hold no responsibility for any negative effects these facts may have on your enjoyment of said media should you continue. That is all.

The story of Shang Tsung from the Mortal Kombat videogame series.

Background

Much of Shang Tsung's origins remain a mystery, but it is speculated that he was human at one point. He competed in the first Mortal Kombat tournament, but cheated in one of the battles. Because of this, the Elder Gods (the highest power in Mortal Kombat) sentenced him to death. However, Shang was saved by a timely alliance with the vicious Outworld Emperor Shao Kahn. Since then, he becomes one of the biggest threats to all of the realms.

Later on, Shang Tsung committed the atrocity of stealing a soul. Because of his crime, the Elder Gods cursed him to not only to kill his enemies, but to take their souls as well. If he didn’t do that he would age rapidly and die. Instead of being angry though Shang Tsung didn’t mind this, in fact, he loved it and as a side effect he learned the memories of the person of the soul he consumed, something which would prove to be extremely useful later in his life, it's later revealed that the Titaness Kronika orchestrated this as part of her grand plan.

Shang Tsung returned years later, now appearing far older. He brought with him his greatest student: the Shokan prince Goro. He had been ordered by the ruler of Outworld, Shao Kahn, to finally bring about the winning streak in Mortal Kombat necessary to weaken the dimensional gates, thus allowing Shao Khan to conquer Earth. After a long but doomed fight, Kung Lao was defeated by Goro and killed. Tsung then also consumed his soul, and the start of Outworld's winning streak had begun.

Shang Tsung would later made contact with Quan Chi. He had become aware of Quan Chi's quest for Shinnok's amulet, the location of which was known only to the Shaolin Monks. Luckily for Quan Chi as a result of consuming the Kung Lao's soul, Shang Tsung had learned of it. In exchange for Quan Chi's, and Shinnok's, aid in completing a task for Shao Kahn, he gave the location of the Map of Elements.

Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero

Shang Tsung briefly appears at the end of the game inviting Elder Sub-Zero to the tournament.

Original Timeline

Mortal Kombat

Shang Tsung as an old man.

At the behest of his master, Shang Tsung took over the Mortal Kombat tournament, changing its rules to allow the emperor to conquer the Earthrealm through it. If he achieved a winning streak of 10 tournaments, he would be allowed to conquer Earth. For this end, he used the half-dragon, half-man Shokan Goro, who defeated the former champion and Shaolin monk, the Great Kung Lao, remaining undefeated for 500 years. In the 10th tournament, the thunder god Raiden decided to interfere, by summoning the Earth's finest warriors to defend their realm. Raiden gave up on his immortality in order to participate in the tournament as well. The Shaolin monk Liu Kang, direct descendant of the Great Kung Lao and one of the chosen warriors, defeated Shang, thwarting his plans. Despite this, he spares him because of his Shaolin background preventing him from killing.

Mortal Kombat II

Shang Tsung with his youth restored.

After being defeated by Liu Kang, Shang Tsung begged his master Shao Kahn for one more chance to achieve the last victory in the tournament. Shang Tsung pitches to hold another tournament on Outworld, Kahn, liking the idea, grants him his request, restoring the sorcerer's former youth and power, so he could attract the Earth's warriors to certain death at Kahn's hands. However, Shang is defeated once again by Kang and his new partner Kung Lao, also a direct descendant of the Great Kung Lao.

Mortal Kombat 3

Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat 3.

Shang Tsung is once again revived by Shao Kahn, this time because he was the key on fulfilling a plan that Kahn enacted over centuries before the last tournament. At that time, Shang had bound the soul of Kahn's former queen Sindel to Earthrealm, so when she was reincarnated, Kahn could claim his queen and overthrow the rules of the tournament. Raiden chooses new warriors to defend Earthrealm against Kahn. Shang is once again defeated, as well as Kahn. Knowing it would be foolish to fight again, Tsung kept a low profile while plotting his next scheme.

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.

Shang Tsung found the sorcerer Quan Chi in his garden one day, by a lucky chance, fighting against Scorpion. Quan Chi made Shang a tempting offer: help him revive the lost army of the Dragon King Onaga, and he would open up a route to the heavens, providing Shang with an unlimited supply of souls. This was the beginning of the Deadly Alliance.

In order to make their plan work, Quan Chi and Shang would need to rid themselves of two sizable obstacles: Shao Kahn and Liu Kang. Kahn was apparently eliminated by Quan Chi, and the Alliance moved on to Kang. Disguising himself as Kang's ally Kung Lao, Shang attacked the warrior, and, with the help of his ally Quan Chi, defeated and killed the noble monk.

But Shang Tsung did not fully trust Quan Chi. Upon returning to Outworld, so just in case he enlisted the help of Drahmin and Moloch who had escaped from the Netherrealm, and gave them an offer: If Quan Chi shows any sign of betrayal or after Shang Tsung was ready, Quan Chi, who the two despised for abandoning them in the infernal pits after promising to free them, would be theirs to do with as they wished.

The Alliance soon took over the troops of several other Mortal Kombat villains, including Kano, Drahmin, and Moloch, and used them to conquer an Outworld village. The two leaders of the Deadly Alliance defeated the champions that Earthrealm sent against them, including Lao and the god Raiden, but Shang's distrustful nature proved to be his downfall. His deception came to light, and Quan Chi fought and defeated him.

Mortal Kombat: Deception

But immediately after Quan Chi defeated him the newly reborn Onaga came in and started shrugging of Quan Chi's attacks. so he, Quan Chi and Raiden temporally teamed up in order to defeat Onaga, but their combined strength was not enough to stop him. Raiden in a last-ditch attempt to defeat Onaga blew himself up. Shang Tsung was caught in Raiden's blast, killing him. Because of his death, the thousands of souls he had consumed over the years were released.

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon

Shang Tsung in Armageddon.

Shao Kahn restored his body as the sorcerer's soul returned from death, but at the cost of Shang's loyalty, even beyond death. A great power, the fire elemental power of Blaze, would allow him to sever his ties to Kahn and regain his former power, so Shang continued to feign allegiance to Kahn, waiting for the right moment to strike.

Like all the other Mortal Kombat warriors, Shang Tsung desired the power of Blaze. He made an alliance with Onaga, Shao Kahn, and Quan Chi to prevent the heroes from obtaining the power. In his unique character ending, he obtained Blaze's soul, and gained unlimited power, among them the ability to change the appearances of others. After turning his former master Kahn into his Centaur slave, Shang used the power to conquer Outworld.

In the canon ending while he was fighting against the Forces of Light, Shang Tsung was one of the few characters to almost reach to the top of Pyramid of Argus, but eventually he was confronted by Liu Kang's corpse despite initially gaining the upper hand eventually Liu Kang caught up with Shang Tsung and held him in place with his hooks before he could reach Blaze. This caused Shang Tsung to revert back to his elderly form. He dies near the top of the Pyramid, ending this version of Shang Tsung for good.

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe

Shang Tsung plays a prominent role in the game he appears many times appearing several times and remains one of the few characters not influenced by the Kombat Rage until the very end of the game.

Alternate Timeline

Mortal Kombat (2011)

Shang Tsung's elder form in MK 2011.

Shang Tsung hosts the first Mortal Kombat tournament in his elderly form. It is he who decides who faces who for each match, and forces Johnny Cage to be the first of the Earthrealm fighters to fight first, following insults made by the actor regarding his age. However, Cage overcomes the challenges thrown at him by Shang. Later, after Sonya manages to free her superior Jax from imprisonment, Shang prevents them from leaving his island by shooting their rescue helicopter down. He also attempts to have the Lin Kuei Cyrax killed for speaking with Raiden. When the final Earthrealm competitor Liu Kang remains, Shang attempts to stack the deck against him. Each attempt, however, fails, as Kang defeats all of his challengers, including Goro. Shang is the final opponent for Kang, and is ultimately defeated, sparing Earthrealm from being merged into Outworld.

Shang Tsung's young form in MK 2011.

When Shang Tsung returns to Shao Kahn, Shao Khan is enraged for losing him the tournament and the chance to conquer Earthrealm. Shang Tsung is almost executed for his failure, However, the sorcerer proposes a new idea for a single tournament to be held in Outworld. Shao Kahn agrees to the concept, and rejuvenates Shang. As Shang goes to the Wu Shi Academy to tell Raiden of the latest tournament, Tarkatans attack it when the thunder god rejects. Raiden engages Shang in combat, with the latter managing to escape back to Outworld. During the attack, Sonya is captured by Shang, forcing Raiden to accept the latest rules and start the second tournament.

Shang Tsung is seen in the emperor's throne room, when Raiden, Jax and Johnny Cage show up. Jax impulsively steps up to find out where Sonya is, and Shang announces they have a "volunteer" for first kombat. He then makes Jax fight Baraka. Jax defeats the Tarkatan and then confronts Shang, demanding to know where Sonya is. The sorcerer just makes a snide comment about how he and Sonya are always having to rescue each other. He is about to make Jax fight a new opponent, when Reptile appears and whispers something to him. Shang asks the emperor permission to pause the tournament while he attends some important business.

Later, Shang Tsung is seen in the living forest striking a deal to buy Black Dragon weaponry from Kano. They are interrupted by Smoke, who wants to know how the elder Sub-Zero died. After Kano fails to defeat the Lin Kuei ninja, Shang morphs into the elder Sub-Zero and partners with Reptile in an attempt to defeat Smoke, but they ultimately fail. Sektor then appears and attacks Smoke, allowing Shang and his allies to escape and bring the Black Dragon's weaponry.

Shang Tsung is again seen in Shao Kahn's arena, administrating over the matches. When the younger Sub-Zero appears and demands to fight Scorpion, the murderer of his older brother, the sorcerer tells him that no one makes demands of the emperor. He then orders Reptile to attack Sub-Zero.

After Kitana discovers and defeats Mileena in Shang Tsung's flesh pits, the sorcerer appears and reveals to her that he is "perfecting" her by creating clones of her. The two then fight, and Kitana subdues him. When the princess brings Shang to Shao Kahn as punishment for his experiments, she is shocked when her stepfather praises him instead, revealing that he knew about the sorcerer's activities all along. As a result, Kitana is imprisoned while Shang is released and ordered to fetch Mileena. Later on, Kahn has Shang team up with Quan Chi to face Kung Lao, who proves victorious over both sorcerers.

After Shao Kahn's defeat and apparent death at the hands of Liu Kang, Shang Tsung is among the Outworlders deciding who should replace him as emperor. When Mileena is suggested by Baraka, Shang scoffs and argues that Mileena only exists as a result of his sorcery - implying that he should be the new emperor. Kahn emerges, however, and thus Shang's quest to become emperor is quickly ended. Kahn is furious with Shang, as now Outworld can no longer absorb Earthrealm. Quan Chi, however, suggests that Outworld simply invade Earthrealm, convincing the emperor that the Elder Gods are too weak to stop him.

Shao Kahn killing Shang Tusng to enhance Sindel's powers

During the invasion, Kabal, a former friend and ally of Kano, is badly burned by Kintaro. Kano brings Kabal back to Outworld, where Shang Tsung uses his magic to heal some of Kabal's injuries. When Motaro is killed by Raiden during the Earthrealm invasion, the recently revived Sindel says that she will finish what Motaro had started. To ensure Sindel's success, Shao Kahn kills Shang Tsung and steals the souls from his body and transfers them into Sindel to enhance her powers. However, when Raiden asks Quan Chi for assistance in the Netherrealm, Shang is not among the resurrected souls. It is possible that the necromancer did not resurrect him purposely, since Kahn allegedly only granted Quan Chi the souls of the fallen Earthrealm warriors for his service but not those of his own willing servants (hence explaining why Sindel was amongst those Quan Chi resurrected but Shang and Motaro were not).

Mortal Kombat X

Shang Tsung appears in Ermac's Arcade ending, where his soul possesses the red ninja and allows him to return to life, using Ermac as his host.

Mortal Kombat 11

Shang Tsung in the trailer for Mortal Kombat 11.

Shang Tsung returns as a playable DLC character in Mortal Kombat 11. He was revealed on March 22, 2019.

Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath

In the story expansion DLC Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath, Shang Tsung appears as the main antagonist, manipulating both the heroes and the villains to obtain the Crown of Kronika to gain her power and rule all of existence. He alongside Fujin and a past version of Nightwolf, first appear right after Liu Kang attempts to restore the timeline. Raiden attempts to stop him, but the trio talk him down with Tsung explaining that without Kronika's Crown, Liu Kang would end up destroying the timeline. When questioned about what he's helping them, Tsung states it's because Kronkia not only used him, but trapped him in The Void after she had no more use for him. Fire God Liu Kang accepts his offer for an alliance, but only if Nightwolf and Fujin supervise him.

They arrive in the past during Kitana's battle with Shao Kahn realizing they can't intervene or risk ruining there plan Shang Tsung, Fujin and Nightwolf try to find a way out. The end up encountering the Kollector but are able to fend him off. Eventually, Shang Tsung and his allies are able to get out but they realize they can't defeat Cetrion without some help. So Shang Tsung suggests recruiting Sindel since she plays no major role in the upcoming battle, and if they restore her she will be her more heroic self. They get part of Earthrealm's Jinsi but before Shang Tsung and Nightwolf can leave they are attacked by Frost and Geras, as well as the cyber Lin Kuei. Once Nightwolf defeats Geras the trio is able to banish Geras to the Chaosrealm and go to the Neatherrealm. When they get there they are captured by the revenants, however, but thanks to Nightwolf they are able to escape. Shang Tsung takes on revenant Nightwolf but is fatally injured by him, Luckily for him, Nightwolf steps in and stops his revenant self but so Shang Tsung can get his strength back he absorbs revenant Nightwolf's soul.

The trio then heads to Sheeva to find the soul chamber.

In other media

Movies

Mortal Kombat (1995)

Shang Tsung in the Mortal Kombat movie.

Shang Tsung appears as the main antagonist of the film, portrayed by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. He develops an interest in Sonya Blade that borders on romantic feelings, calling her "My sweet Sonya", for example. He regularly resorted to intimidation and trickery; for example, he allows Johnny Cage to challenge Goro on the condition that he may challenge anyone of his choosing, in any place, as the final battle for the tournament, thus setting the stage for Liu Kang and Johnny's desperate move to save Sonya and leading to the climactic battle between Shang and Kang (Kang, however, said that Sonya had to accept the challenge or the battle could not occur.) In the end, Shang fights Kang and ends up being knocked off a platform onto a row of spikes, impaling him. With the soul power no longer intact, Shang decomposes into his true remains: a skeleton. Upon his death, all of the captured warriors' souls escape into the Heavens, including Kang's younger brother, Chan, so those warriors would rest in peace, and then Chan told Kang that his spirit would always be with him. Shang also has a flashback cameo in the 1997 sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.

Mortal Kombat Rebirth

James Lew portrayed Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat: Rebirth. His appearance closely resembles his attire in the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie. He appears at the end of episode 3, stopping time in a movie studio and approaching Johnny Cage. He then offers him a chance to change his life.

Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins

Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins.

Shang Tsung also appeared in the animated film Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins as the main enemy that had an army of Tarkatan minions. He had his appearance from the original Mortal Kombat.

Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge

Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge.

Shang Tsung appears in Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge as one of the two main antagonists (alongside Quan Chi). He is voiced by Artt Butler. He is once again the grandmaster of the tournament that will decide Earthrealm' fate. He is the right-hand to Emperor Shao Kahn of Outworld and master of his champion Goro. Just like the games, he loses the tournament and is tortured by Shao Kahn for his failure.

Mortal Kombat (2021)

Shang Tsung is set to appear presumably as the main antagonist of the upcoming live-action film Mortal Kombat, played by Chin Han.

TV

Mortal Kombat: Legacy

Johnson Phan portrayed Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat: Legacy.

Shang Tsung in this continuity is still one of Shao Kahn's servants and a sorcerer of unrivalled power.

He chronologically appears for the first time in the fourth episode, where Shang Tsung is summoned by Shao Kahn to create a clone of Kitana when Shao Khan has fears that Sindel will raise her up to hate him. Shang Tsung agrees to the task without hesitation. at first, it's unknown what he did next, but in a flashback, in the fifth episode, it reveals that he stole some of Kitana's blood to create Mileena, a clone of Kitana, though he mixed in Tarkatan blood.

Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm

Shang Tsung appears several times in the animated TV show Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm as a major antagonist mostly serving under Shao Khan who he despises.

Mortal Kombat: Conquest

In the Mortal Kombat: Conquest TV series, Shang Tsung was played by Bruce Locke. Shang Tsung was portrayed very differently than how he usually is he is a sorcerer obsessed with taking revenge on the Great Kung Lao, who had defeated him in Mortal Kombat. For most of the series, he in Cobalt Mines of Shokan as punishment for his failure in the Mortal Kombat tournament, despite this sometimes he is able to escape. He also keeps the Kreeyan princess Vorpax in the Cobalt Mines as his personal slave and henchman until she is freed by her sisters. He is later chosen by Vorpax to be her mate after she obtains Queen Kreeya's powers.

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