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Your soul is MINE!
~ Shang Tsung famous quote
You participate in the most important Mortal Kombat in history. This tournament, the tenth after nine Outworld victories, will determine Earthrealm's fate. If you defeat all of your opponents, you will face one final challenge... me.
~ Shang Tsung speaking at the beginning of the first Mortal Kombat tournament

Shang Tsung is the secondary antagonist of the Mortal Kombat series. He is Shao Kahn's right-hand-man and the nemesis of its de-facto protagonist, Liu Kang. He is a powerful, unmerciful, manipulative, heartless, and deadly sorcerer, virtually unmatched in his mastery of sorcery, and a shapeshifter who consumes souls in order to sustain himself. He is the main antagonist of the first Mortal Kombat game and movie, the secondary antagonist in Mortal Kombat 2, 3 and 9, one of the two main antagonists in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, and a supporting antagonist in Mortal Kombat Armageddon.

History

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.

Mortal Kombat

ShangTsung

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.

Mortal Kombat II

9965-shang tsung super

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 on the tournament. Kahn, out of pity, grants him his request, restoring the sorcerer 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 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 choose new warriors to defend Earthrealm against Kahn. Shang is once again defeated, as well as Kahn.

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

Shang Tsung found the sorcerer Quan Chi in his garden one day, 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.

The Alliance soon took over the troops of several other Mortal Kombat villains, including Kano, Drahmin, and Moloch, and used them to conquer Outworld. 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. When Quan Chi was defeated by Raiden, Shang was caught in the thunder god's suicidal, last ditch attack and vaporized.

Mortal Kombat: 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.

Alternate Timeline

Mortal Kombat (2011)

Shang Tsung hosts the first Mortal Kombat tournament in his elderly form. It is Tsung 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 Cage regarding Tsung's age. However, Cage overcomes the challenges thrown at him by Tsung. Later, after Sonya manages to free her superior, Jax, from imprisonment, Shang Tsung 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 Tsung attempts to stack the deck against him. Each attempt, however, fails, as Liu Kang defeats all of his challengers, including Goro. Shang Tsung is the final opponent for Liu Kang, and is ultimately defeated, sparing Earthrealm from being merged into Outworld.

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

Shang 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. Shang then makes Jax fight Baraka. Jax defeats Baraka and then confronts Shang Tsung, demanding to know where Sonya is. Shang just makes a snide comment about how Jax 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 Smoke, Shang Tsung 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 Tsung, along with his allies and bringing the Black Dragon's weaponary to escape.

Shang Tsung is again seen in Kahn's Arena, administrating over the matches. When the Younger Sub-Zero appears and demands to fight Scorpion, the murderer of his older brother, Shang Tsung 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 Kitana that he is "perfecting" her by creating clones of her. The two then fight, and Kitana subdues him. When Kitana brings Shang Tsung to Shao Kahn for punishment for his experiments, she is shocked when Shao Kahn praises him instead, revealing that he knew about Shang Tsung's activities all along. As a result, Kitana is imprisoned while Shang Tsung is released and ordered to fetch Mileena. Later on, Shao Kahn has Shang Tsung team up with Quan Chi to face Kung Lao. Kung Lao 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 Shao Kahn as emperor. When Mileena is suggested by Baraka, Shang Tsung scoffs and argues that Mileena only exists as a result of his sorcery - implying that he should be the new emperor. Shao Kahn emerges, however, and thus Shang Tsung's quest to become emperor is quickly ended. Shao Kahn is furious with Shang Tsung, 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.

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 states that she will finish what Motaro has started. To ensure her success, Shao Kahn drains the souls from Shang Tsung's body and transfers them into Sindel, killing Shang Tsung in the process. However, when Raiden asks Quan Chi for assistance in the Netherrealm, Shang Tsung is not among the resurrected souls. It is possible that Quan Chi did not resurrect him purposely, since Shao 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 Tsung 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.

Powers and Abilities

Shang Tsung has the power to steal the souls of those he defeats and must do so to continue living. He can shapeshift into the people whose souls he steals, giving him their combat abilities and memories. However, he can shapeshift into someone without their soul. Shang is highly skilled in black magic and sorcery, and his attacks are mainly fire based, much like his archenemy Liu Kang.

He mainly got these powers from Shao Kahn, but in later games, this was no longer the case. Shang Tsung can fire flaming skull projectiles, which can also be summoned from the ground, that are believed to be the souls he has collected. He can create a giant flaming cobra, though he only used this ability in the opening of Mortal Kombat: Deception, which is a reference to his Animality in MK3. Shang can also create portals between realms and teleport in bursts of fire.

Appearances in other media

Film

Shang Tsung (MK Movie)

Shang Tsung in the Mortal Kombat film, played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.

Shang Tsung appears as the main antagonist in the 1995 Mortal Kombat film, portrayed by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. He develops an interest in Sonya Blade that borders on romantic feelings, calling her "my sweet Sony", 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 Tsung fights Liu Kang and ends up being knocked off a platform onto a row of spikes, impaling him. With the soul power no longer intact, Shang disintegrates 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.

Shang Tsung (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.

Shang Tsung (cartoon)

Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm.

Shang Tsung appears as a villain in the animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm.

Shang Tsung (MK Legacy)

Johnson Phan as Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat: Legacy

Johnson Phan portrays Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat: Legacy.

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.

Gallery

Videos

Trivia

  • In Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, his death is very similar to Liu Kang's death in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.
  • In Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, he's killed in a similar manner to how he killed Liu Kang in Deadly Alliance. If the player performing this fatality is controlling Kang, there appears to be a perfect swap of roles.
  • Shaolin Monks, Deadly Alliance, Armageddon and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe are the only games where the Soul Steal allows Shang Tsung to regain health.
  • Shang Tsung used his Morphing and Flaming Skulls during the intro of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, but they are not present in the game.
  • In Mortal Kombat 3, occasionally, Shang Tsung appears on the Master tournament ladder twice.
  • Shang's alternate outfit from Deadly Alliance is based from the time he was champion of Mortal Kombat before the Great Kung Lao defeated him (Mortal Kombat official comic).
  • In MK (2011), Shang Tsung has his MK outfit as his alternative costume, to note this further, his voice changes to that of an older tone.
  • Shang Tsung was also inspired by the character of "David Lo Pan" from "Big Trouble In Little China."
  • Shang Tsung is the only character who appears in all of the 2-D games that is absent from Mortal Kombat 4.
  • MK (2011) was the only game to mention of Shang Tsung's origin. His bio states that he is originally from China in Earthrealm.
  • Shang Tsung is the only character in MK (2011) whose throw move heals him.
  • In Annoying Orange videos, he appeared however in Annoying Orange Vs. Mortal Kombat after successfully defeating Shao Kahn to become champion, but was interrupted by Orange who annoys him, however Shang Tsung was later killed by Orange who has summoned Knife which kills Shang Tsung.
           Mortal Kombat Villains

Main Villains
Dark Kahn | Onaga | One Being | Quan Chi | Shang Tsung | Shao Kahn | Shinnok

Other Villains
Baraka | Cyrax | D'Vorah | Daegon | Drahmin | Ermac | Erron Black | Ferra & Torr | Frost | Goro | Havik | Hsu Hao | Jade | Jarek | Kabal | Kano | Kintaro | Kira | Kobra | Mavado | Mileena | Moloch | Motaro | Noob Saibot | Rain | Reiko | Reptile | Scorpion | Sektor | Sheeva | Sindel | Skarlet | Smoke | Tanya | Tremor | Triborg

Undead Villains
Kitana | Kung Lao | Liu Kang

Guest Star Villains
Catwoman | Darkseid | Deathstroke | Freddy Krueger | Jason Voorhees | Joker | Kratos | Leatherface | Lex Luthor | Predator | Xenomorph

Non Playable Villains
Bannak | Cilene | Gadsen | Hideyoshi | Hydro | Jataaka | Jola | Kebral | Kia | Komodai | Kreeya | Liu Kang | Masked Guards | No Face | Oniro | Orochi Hellbeast | Peron | Quinn | Rojack | Rook | Ruby | Ruutuu | Siann, Mika and Sora | Tasia | The Kombatant | Vorpax | Zaggot | Zara | Zenkaro

Evil Races
Centaurians | Hellspawn | Kytinn | Oni | Shokan | Tarkata | Tormentors | Wraiths

Evil Organizations
Army of Darkness | Black Dragon Clan | Brotherhood of Shadow | Cyber Ninjas | Dragon King's Army | Executioners | Festival of Death | Forces of Darkness | Kahn Guards | Red Dragon Clan | Shaakans | Shadow Assassins | Shadow Priests | Tekunin

           DEATH BATTLE Villains

DEATH BATTLE Combatants
Boba Fett | Shang Tsung | Akuma | Zangief | Goomba | Koopa | Riptor | Kratos | Shadow the Hedgehog | Vegeta | Starscream | Dr. Eggman | Eggman Empire | Badniks | Silver Sonic | Mecha Sonic | Mecha Knuckles | E-101 Beta | Shadow Androids | Scratch | Grounder | Metal Sonic | Dr. Wily | Yellow Devil | Guts Man | Metal Man | Slash Man | Magnet Man | Sheep Man | Napalm Man | Pharaoh Man | Bass | Treble | M. Bison | Shao Kahn | Ivy Valentine | The Terminator | Sektor | Fulgore | Gamera | Godzilla | Ryu | Scorpion | Deathstroke | Deadpool | Majin Buu/Kid Buu | Gaara | Segata Sanshiro | Nightmare/Inferno/Soul Edge | Lex Luthor | Black Beast | Darth Vader | Doctor Doom | Donkey Kong | Trish | Jeanne | Bowser | Ganondorf/Ganon | Quicksilver | Sweet Tooth | The Joker | Mewtwo | The Meta | Scout | Doomsday | Bane | Venom | Android 18 | Balrog | Silver Samurai | Shredder

DBX Combatants
Trish | Jeanne | Jango Fett | King Dedede | Sasuke Uchiha | Hiei | Liu Kang | Alucard | Predator | Meta Knight | Broly | Doomsday | Akuma | Vegeta |

Other
Wizard & Boomstick | Possessed Super Saiyan God Goku Pop Vinyl Figure | Sarge