|Series||Mortal Kombat series|
|First game||Mortal Kombat (1992)|
|Voiced by||James Kyson Lee (MK vs DC)|
Neil Ross (MK: DotR)
Jim Cummings (MK: The Journey Begins)
|Live action actor(s)||Ho Sung Pak (MK)|
Phillip Ahn, M.D. (MKII)
John Turk (MK3, UMK3, MKT)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (first film)
Bruce Locke (MK: Conquest)
Sidney Liufau (Live Tour)
Chris Bashen(MK vs DC), (Motion-Capture sequences)
|Fighting styles||Snake (MK:DA, MK:A)|
Mantis (MK:D - Konquest)
|Weapons||Straight Sword (MK:DA, MK:A)|
Shang Tsung is a video game character in the Mortal Kombat fighting game series. He was portrayed by Ho Sung Pak in the first game, Philip Ahn in the second game and John Turk in the third and subsequent games. He was the final boss in the first Mortal Kombat game.
A powerful and deadly wizard and primary antagonist in the Mortal Kombat series, Shang Tsung is a shapeshifter who absorbs the souls of those he slays in order to maintain his youth and power. He has morphed into various physical forms throughout Mortal Kombat.
Storyline[edit | edit source]
Pre-Mortal Kombat[edit | edit source]
Shang Tsung's last past remains shrouded in mystery it had lon ago in mortal kombat 1, with his exact origins never specified and unclear at best. According to the first Mortal Kombat comic, Shang Tsung was cursed by "his gods" not only to kill his enemies, but to take their souls as well. Only in this way would he hold off his grim fate: to age rapidly and die prematurely. As a side effect of his consuming the souls of others, Tsung was able to access their memories and knowledge, an ability which would greatly benefit him years later.
Tsung entered the Mortal Kombat tournament, quickly overcoming all competition and becoming Grand Champion. How long he retained the title is unclear; however the overconfident Tsung would eventually have it taken from him by the legendary Shaolin warrior monk, the Great Kung Lao.
Shang Tsung returned years later, now appearing far older, after the "mysterious" death of one of the tournament's three Grandmasters. 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 unbalance the Furies and weaken the dimensional gates, thus allowing the Outworld Emperor to conquer Earth. After a valiant but doomed fight, The Great Kung Lao was defeated by Goro and killed. Tsung consumed his soul, and the Outworld's domination of the Mortal Kombat tournament had begun.
Shang Tsung made contact with another sorcerer, 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. As a result of consuming the Great 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 the Emperor Shao Kahn, he gave the location of the Map of the Elements – but failed to inform Quan Chi that no sorcerer could enter the Temple where it was stored.
Mortal Kombat[edit | edit source]
Over the next 500 years, as Goro remained undefeated, the tournament fell further into Tsung's depraved hands. He became the sole Grandmaster, and the tournament came to be held on his private island – in reality, a zone in between Earth and the Outworld.
Near the end of this time period, Tsung learned of the swordsman Kenshi. Realizing that Kenshi's pride could easily be exploited, Tsung disguised himself as an old man named Song. He praised Kenshi for his ability, telling him that he deserved a sword worthy of his skill. He then led Kenshi through an ancient underground labyrinth, and stopped before a deep well, covered by a large stone. Tsung informed Kenshi the sword lay within. Once Kenshi removed the lid, the souls of the swordsman's warrior king ancestors were released, blinding Kenshi. Tsung revealed his true self, proceeded to consume the souls, and left Kenshi to die, not knowing the swordsman would survive to become a bitter enemy. Tsung also sparred with Shujinko to determine whether or not he would allow him to enter the tournament. The spar ended in a draw with Tsung granting Shujinko permission to enter. Shujinko did not do so as he was on a quest.
Mortal Kombat II[edit | edit source]
During the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament, the final victory that would enable Kahn to conquer Earth, Liu Kang defeated Goro, breaking the streak. Liu Kang then challenged Shang Tsung in Kombat to restore the honour of the once-sacred tournament; Liu Kang prevailed, and Shang Tsung fled to Outworld. Dragged before Shao Kahn, Shang Tsung begged for his life. He told the tyrant that if they challenged Earthrealm to Mortal Kombat in Outworld, they would have to accept or forfeit. Kahn agreed to this plan, and restored Tsung's youth. While the tournament served as a diversion, Shao Kahn could continue with his own scheme, 10,000 years in the making: the restoration to life of his former queen, Sindel. During the tournament, despite having his youth restored and after a long brutal fight, Tsung lost again to Liu Kang, this time in front of Kahn. After Shao Kahn's defeat at the hands of Liu Kang, Shang Tsung finished the process of Sindel's resurrection with the aid of his cult of Shadow Priests. Thanks to the help of Quan Chi and Shinnok, her soul would indeed be resurrected – but in Earthrealm, and tainted by evil.
Mortal Kombat 3[edit | edit source]
When Queen Sindel was revived in Earthrealm, Shao Kahn could reach across the realms and reclaim her, forcefully merging Earthrealm with Outworld. Shang Tsung led one of Kahn's extermination squads to hunt down the fighters that Lord Raiden had protected. Despite being granted more power than ever before, Tsung still lost to Liu Kang for a third time. Upon Kahn's defeat, Shang Tsung retreated with him back to Outworld, when the merger was reversed. Tsung would then be imprisoned and tortured for his failure to help his master merge Earthrealm into Outworld. He was periodically released to do Kahn's bidding, and was finally released for good after regaining Kahn's favour.
Deadly Alliance[edit | edit source]
A few years later, Shang Tsung found Quan Chi in his palace courtyard, fighting Scorpion. When Quan Chi defeated him, he gave Shang an offer: if Tsung helped him revive the lost army of the Dragon King by means of his ability to transplant souls, he would open a "Soulnado" to the Heavens, giving him an endless supply of souls. Tsung accepted, and together, they formed the Deadly Alliance. In order to carry out their scheme, however, they first needed to remove the two largest obstacles in their way: Shao Kahn and Liu Kang.
Shang Tsung introduced Quan Chi to Shao Kahn, vouched for his loyalty, and then they attacked and apparently killed him (however, Shao Kahn appears in the GameCube version of Mortal Kombat: Deception, and reveals that they merely killed a clone). After killing him and accepting Kano's offer to serve them, they travelled through a portal, known only to sorcerers and deities, to Earthrealm and headed to the Wu Shi Academy. There, Shang Tsung disguised himself as Kung Lao and approached Liu Kang. As Liu practiced his kata, Shang revealed his true form and attacked. Although Liu had the upper hand, Quan Chi struck from behind, giving Shang the opportunity to finally take his revenge on Liu Kang by breaking his neck and taking his soul.
Shang Tsung did not fully trust Quan Chi. Upon returning to Outworld, he gave the Oni Drahmin and Moloch, who had escaped from the Netherealm, an offer: after Tsung performed his part in the plan, 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 Deadly Alliance soon commanded Kano's troops to force a small Outworld village to construct a new palace around the tomb to house the Soulnado. When one of the citizens, Li Mei, attacked Kano, they offered to free her village if she could win a tournament they would hold. About the same time, they approached Mavado, offering him a deal as well; he could earn the right to fight and kill Kano in exchange for eliminating Kenshi, who had been spying on Tsung. Mavado accomplished his mission, and the Alliance granted him his wish. Li Mei, having won the local tournament, demanded her reward, but instead Shang Tsung started transferring her soul to a mummified soldier of Onaga's army. It was at this time that the forces of Earthrealm, led by Raiden, attacked. Li Mei was rescued by Bo' Rai Cho, who escaped with her, but the remainder of the warriors assaulted the Alliance.
The two defeated Earthrealm's champions (with Shang Tsung victorious in a one on one battle against an improved Kung Lao) and finally Raiden. Their victory, however, would not be savored. Shang's lust for power and Quan Chi's suspicion finally came to light. The two fought, and Quan Chi emerged the victor. But immediately after defeating Tsung, he was confronted by a reborn Onaga, who seemed to shrug off his most powerful blasts with ease. Tsung regained consciousness, and recognizing the Dragon King to be a more serious threat, assisted Quan Chi in attacking him. Moments later, the thunder god did as well, but their combined efforts could not stop the former Outworld ruler, who had come to reclaim Shinnok's amulet and his ancient army. In Raiden's ensuing last-ditch attempt at victory through a self-sacrificial blast, Shang Tsung was caught in the blast, killing him. The thousands of souls he had consumed over the years were released, including the souls of Liu Kang and the Great Kung Lao.
Armageddon[edit | edit source]
Tsung's own soul was magically drawn to Outworld, where he was delivered to Shao Kahn. Tsung had pledged his soul to the emperor ages before and this agreement was binding, even beyond death. Kahn provided Tsung with a new body and then allied with him in taking his kingdom from Mileena. Although Tsung was bound to serve Kahn, an opportunity to free himself arose when he discovered that Quan Chi was alive. Quan Chi brought word from Shinnok of a plan to take a great power for the Forces of Darkness, and Tsung realized if he were to take the power for himself, he could sever his bond with Shao Kahn. Until his opportunity arose, Tsung continued to feign loyalty to the emperor while redirecting suspicion to other members of the alliance. 
Shang Tsung is seen during the Konquest mode of Armageddon. Taven spots the sorcerer forming an alliance with Onaga, Shao Kahn, and Quan Chi so that the group may prevent the Forces of Light from obtaining the power that Blaze possessed.
In Shang Tsung's ending in Armageddon, he defeats Blaze and receives his power. He also gains the power to alter the forms of others. Shao Kahn rushes towards Tsung, but he turns Kahn into a Centaur slave. Tsung then becomes the ruler of Outworld.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe[edit | edit source]
Shang Tsung appears in the video game Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe representing the Mortal Kombat Universe against the DC Universe. Despite an apparent alliance between himself and all of the Mortal Kombat Universe warriors involved in the event, he still has aspirations of supreme power and is as devious a villain as ever.
In his ending Shang Tsung, being impressed by Captain Marvel's fighting ability, but angered at his own defeat by the hero, Shang Tsung sought to create a new creature which would have Captain Marvel's abilities but be a perversion of them. Using his sorcery, he merged blood from a torn piece of Captain Marvel's cape, and the flesh of a Tarkatan corpse. The result of this experiment being a "Super Tarkatan", an abomination the likes of which had never been seen before. Knowing that he would be unstoppable with more of such creatures, Shang Tsung quickly began preparations to create an army of them.
Character development and game information[edit | edit source]
Shang Tsung's name was hyphenated in Midway's official arcade flyer for the original Mortal Kombat ("Shang-Tsung").  He first appeared as an elderly man in his mid-eighties, then became a younger man in his late-twenties to early-thirties. According to GamePro magazine in 1993, the Mortal Kombat II version of Shang Tsung was 19 years old. The article also included a rough sketch of Tsung's "true form," a twisted demon. Though it was drawn by Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias, this form has never actually appeared in the video games.  In Deadly Alliance he's roughly 45. Tobias wanted Shang Tsung's long hair to hang loose in Mortal Kombat 3, but potential problems with it flopping about whenever he jumped resulted in it being tied back into a ponytail.
There are at least two different origin stories for Shang Tsung. On Midway's Mortal Kombat Mythologies website (long since inactive), it stated Shang Tsung was originally from Earth. This however presents a problem: namely, it was revealed that Bo' Rai Cho could not fight in the Mortal Kombat tournament as a representative of Earthrealm because he was not a native of that realm, hence his training of Liu Kang. Likewise, Shang Tsung could not have competed for Outworld if he were a native of Earthrealm. However, his Armageddon bio makes reference to Tsung binding his soul to Shao Kahn, which could provide a loophole allowing him to represent Outworld in the tournament despite not being a native of that realm. Shang Tsung's bio in Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition states his origin as "Earthrealm/Outworld."
In the original Mortal Kombat, Shang Tsung seems to be hovering on the floor, like his fellow Shadow Priests. Because of this, he is completely immune to sweep attacks and Sub-Zero's Slide. He can't transform into anyone in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Mortal Kombat: Deception, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, or Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe; Ed Boon explained in an interview with Justin Deering of Mortal Kombat Online this was due to a lack of sufficient memory "I'd love it if he could, but the reality of the situation is that we're reading off a DVD or Blu-Ray disc. The speed of which you can load the data is only so fast. You can't have all 20 characters information in memory at once. The reason we were able to do it before was because the arcade games ran on ROMs, we had instant access to anything, there was no hard drive, so if I was to say let's grab the Kung Lao stuff, load it in, and then have him instantly morph into him... it was easy. That's probably the main reason you haven't seen him have them in the more recent previous CD-based games." However, he did assume the form of Kung Lao and Ermac in the opening cinematics of Deadly Alliance and Armageddon respectively and did have the ability to morph into an opponent in one of his Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe fatalties. But he could actually transform into anyone in the Game Boy Advance version of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (and the second re-release called Tournament Edition). Oddly enough he can't transform into Reptile in that game.
Shang Tsung appears in the Dead Pool arena in Mortal Kombat: Deception, watching on a balcony (in his Mortal Kombat II attire). He isn't normally playable in Mortal Kombat: Deception without the use of a GameShark code or Xbox mod. However, when he is used in a battle other than the fight challenges in Konquest mode, he uses the voice samples of the younger Shujinko, many of which are, otherwise, never heard in the game..
Cultural impact[edit | edit source]
In other media[edit | edit source]
Shang Tsung was the primary villain in Mortal Kombat, and was played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. He regularly resorted to intimidation and trickery to try and manipulate the outcome of the tournament, which ultimately proved unsuccessful as he was defeated by Liu Kang in the final battle.
Shang Tsung appeared in the animated film Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins in which his role was almost identical to that of the games. In this version, Tsung is portrayed as having the ability to read his opponent's thoughts during battle (an ability which is not present in the game series), allowing him to predict their attacks and adapt his own strategy to exploit the opponent's greatest weakness.
In the Mortal Kombat: Conquest TV series, Shang Tsung was portrayed as a sorcerer eager to take revenge on the Great Kung Lao, who had defeated him in Mortal Kombat. For most of the series, he was confined to Shao Kahn's cobalt mines for his failure in the Mortal Kombat tournament, although he occasionally escapes, since his powers are unaffected by the cobalt in the mines due to his human heritage. While in the mines, he keeps Kreeyan princess Vorpax as his personal slave (both literal and pleasure), and generally mistreats her until she receives her mother's powers. He was played by Bruce Locke. Shang Tsung also appeared in several episodes of the animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, and was voiced by Neil Ross.
Shang Tsung plays his original role of main villain in the first series of the Malibu Comics, Blood & Thunder. Shang Tsung appeared in his old self, with his backstory mostly unchanged (serving Shao Kahn to open the portal through 10 consecutive Mortal Kombat wins). He and Raiden share a bitter relationship, usually ending in either verbal assaults or draw fights. While Shang Tsung hosted the tenth tournament, he secretly planned to gain the powers of the mystical book Tao Te Zhan, which granted immense strength to whoever resolves its 7 riddles. Unfortunately for him, Kano steals the book and later Goro vanishes in thin air, forcing him to hold the tournament endlessly, making Shao Kahn quite disgusted. During the final issue Tournament Edition, Shang Tsung and Raiden joins forces to stop Goro after he took the power of the book, since he cannot be trusted with such strength.
During the Battlewave series, it is implied that Shang Tsung resumed the tournament after his plans were foiled and lost it alongside Goro at the hands of Liu Kang. He is seen in the first pages of issue 1 being pursued and punished by Shao Kahn, Kintaro, and Gorbak (Goro's father). Even though Shao Kahn supposedly punished him, he later appears in the last page of issue 5 completely rejuvenated and still under Shao Kahn's servitude. Shang Tsung would later serve as leader of Shao Kahn's team during the tournament he prepared in the last issue of the series, Tournament Edition II.
Shang Tsung's last appearance is during the 1995 Kung Lao one-shot comic, in which he serves as antagonist, attempting to kill Kung Lao through deceptive tricks using his shapeshifting abilities to use Kung Lao's friends (Kitana, Baraka, and Sub-Zero) and later his ancestor, the Great Kung Lao.
Shang Tsung appears in the short film "Mortal Kombat: Rebirth".
Critical reception[edit | edit source]
Tsung was ranked number seventeen on GameDaily's "Top 25 Evil Masterminds of All Time" article, which noted his attack style and goals while stating he is "one twisted freak." GamesRadar listed him as one of the top villains who will never stay dead. He was also 6th in GamesRadar's "The 12 most misunderstood videogame villains" with comments on his role. Shang Tsung was ranked 97 on IGN's "Top 100 Video Game Villains" list.
References[edit | edit source]
- Shang Tsung's Armageddon info at Mortal Kombat Warehouse
- Top 25 Evil Masterminds of All Time. GameDaily. Retrieved on 2008-11-29
- The Top 7... villains that never stay dead. GamesRadar. Retrieved on 2010-01-05
- Goulter, Tom. The 12 most misunderstood videogame villains. GamesRadar. Future US.. Retrieved on 2010-03-07