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Shang Tsung

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Your soul is MINE!
~ Shang Tsung

Shang Tsung is a recurring 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, manipulative, and deadly sorcerer, virtually unmatched in his mastery of sorcery, and a shapeshifter who consumes souls in order to sustain himself.


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


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)

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


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.




  • Shang Tsung's persona may have been the inspiration for Chase Young.
  • 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
Shang Tsung | Shao Kahn | Quan Chi | Shinnok | Onaga | Dark Kahn | One Being
Other Villains
Scorpion | Kano | Goro | Reptile | Baraka | Mileena | Kintaro | Smoke | Noob Saibot | Motaro | Sheeva | Sindel | Ermac | Kabal | Sektor | Rain | Cyrax | Jataaka | Kia | Sareena | Reiko | Jarek | Tanya | Drahmin | Frost | Hsu Hao | Mavado | Moloch | Kobra | Kira | Havik | Hotaru | Daegon | Skarlet | D'Vorah | Tremor | Triborg
Liu Kang | Kung Lao | Kitana | Stryker | Nightwolf
Non-Playable Villains
Dark Kahn | Jola | Kebral | No Face | Qali | Rojack | Ruby | Siann, Mika & Sora | Tasia
Evil Organizations
Army of Darkness | Black Dragon Clan | Brotherhood of Shadow | Dragon King's Army | Festival of Death | Forces of Darkness | Red Dragon Clan | Shadow Assassins | Tarkata | Tekunin
Non-MK/Guest Star Villains
Joker | Deathstroke | Darkseid | Lex Luthor | Catwoman | Kratos | Freddy Krueger | Jason Voorhees | Predator | Xenomorph | Leatherface

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