Shang Tsung is a fictional character in the Mortal Kombat fighting game series. He is one of the few original characters, debuting in the first Mortal Kombat arcade game, in which he served as the boss.
About Shang TsungEdit
A powerful and deadly sorcerer and a primary villain in the Mortal Kombat series, Shang Tsung is a demonic shapeshifter who needs to consume souls in order to sustain his health and life. In the Mortal Kombat series, he is the epitome of cunning and decadence, as symbolized by his preference for lavish parties, grand palaces, and stylish clothing. Unlike the crude Shao Kahn, this bombast is a façade, disguising Tsung's true intellectual and mental sophistication. His nemesis is Liu Kang, but throughout his unnatural lifespan, he has earned the hatred of many others, including Kung Lao and Kenshi.
Shang Tsung's early allegiance to Shao Kahn granted him the status of a free roaming sorcerer. He is able to move between realms without detection by the Elder Gods or local deities, an ability which has granted him many opportunities to commit atrocities over the centuries. Only Shinnok, Shao Kahn, and Quan Chi can match Shang Tsung's skills as a sorcerer.
In his debut, Shang Tsung had the appearance of a decrepit old man. His skin was pale with long, yet balding white hair, beard and mustache with dangling thin fingers with long fingernails. He wore robes with shades of blue and yellow and had a katana holstered at his side. Since MKII, he regains his youth though with varying degrees. His skin returns to a natural tint and is depicted with long black hair. As with his older persona, he shares featureless white eyes. In MKII and MK3 he wore yellow and black clothes. Deadly Alliance and beyond, he wears a heavy red uniform. Interestingly, he is depicted with pupils, having brown eyes.
Shang Tsung's past remains shrouded in mystery, with his exact origins never specified and unclear at best. According to some sources, he was originally a human from Earthrealm. He participated in the Mortal Kombat Tournament, but he cheated in one of the battles. Breaking the sacred rules is conscidered treason against the represented realm and the Elder Gods, and so Shang was sentenced to death by the tournament judges. the Dark Emperor Shao Kahn took advantage of the evil in his heart and made a deal with Shang Tsung; that he would be spared if he swore allegiance to him. Tsung agreed and was taken to Outworld and was trained by the Emperor in the Black Arts.
When Tsung committed the atrocity of taking a soul, Shang Tsung was cursed by the Elder 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, a happenstance 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, 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.
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.
During the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament, the final victory that would enable Shao Kahn to conquer Earth, Liu Kang, a Shaolin Monk, 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. Meanwhile, the tournament served as a diversion, Shao Kahn could continue with his own scheme, 10,000 years in the making: the resoration to life of his former Queen, Sindel.
During the tournament, despite having his youth restored and after a long brutal fight, Tsung lost 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.
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 lost to Liu Kang again. 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, but was released after regaining Kahn's favour.
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 an immediate threat, assisted Quan Chi in attacking him. Bare 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 soul of Liu Kang.
Tsung's own soul was magically drawn to Outworld, where he was delivered to Shao Kahn. Tsung pledged his soul to the emperor ages before; this agreement was binding, even beyond death. Kahn provided Tsung with a host body and then allied with him in taking his kingdom from Mileena. Although Tsung is bound to serve Kahn, an opportunity to free himself arises when he discovers Quan Chi is alive. Quan Chi brings word from Shinnok of a plan to take a great power for the Forces of Darkness, and Tsung realises if he were to take the power for himself, he could sever his bond with Shao Kahn. Until his opportunity arises, Tsung continues to feign loyalty to the emperor while redirecting suspicion to other members of the alliance. 
Shang Tsung is seen during Armageddon's Konquest mode. 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 his Armageddon ending, 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 2: "After losing control of the Shaolin tournament, Tsung promises his ruler Shao Kahn to shape events that will lure the Earth warriors to compete in his own contest. Convinced of this plan, Shao Kahn restores Tsung's youth and allows him to live."
- Mortal Kombat 3: "Tsung is Shao Kahn's lead sorcerer. He once fell out of favor with his emperor after failing to win the Earth realm through tournament battle. But the ever scheming Shang Tsung is instrumental in Kahn's conquest of Earth. He has now been granted more power than ever."
- Deadly Alliance: "The sorcerer Shang Tsung was imprisoned in the depths of Shao Kahn's fortress, punished for failing to win the Mortal Kombat tournament in Earthrealm. Periodically, he was released to perform tasks for the emperor, until he eventually regained Shao Kahn's favor and was given his freedom. He remained in Outworld, risking his life to drain the souls of kombatants in order to sustain his youth. All this changed the day the sorcerer Quan Chi returned from the Netherrealm. Quan Chi proposed an alliance with Shang Tsung that will prove to be mutually beneficial. He offered Shang Tsung immortality by unlocking a portal linked to the Heavens. Shang Tsung would therefore have access to an unlimited number of souls to preserve his youth. In return, all Quan Chi required was Shang Tsung's assistance in transplanting warrior souls into themummified remains of the Dragon King's army. Shang Tsung accepted this offer and the Deadly Alliance was formed."
- Armageddon: "In an instant, Raiden's blast destroyed us all! Our souls intertwined, we did battle in the ether. But I was drawn away by a magic more powerful than death. My essence returned to Outworld, where I found myself face to face with Shao Kahn! He was alive! Quan Chi and I had slain him in his fortress -- or so we thought. Yet here he stood. At his side was the Shokan prince, Goro! My ghostly visage startled them at first, but Shao Kahn knew what had transpired. Long ago I had pledged my soul to the emperor. That pledge was binding even beyond death. But if he were to die, so too would those who served him. At the time I believed it to be merely another empty vow, yet here I am. My soul has returned from beyond to rejoin Shao Kahn. He had need of me. But I required a host body in which my soul could reside. At the flesh pits, he forged for me a new body. It was weak and grotesque to behold, but it functioned well enough. I craved mortal souls to heal and fortify my new flesh. I found more than enough at a place all too familiar to me: the village where Li Mei was born. I consumed each peasant's life force as Shao Kahn and Goro slew them one by one. I was renewed! Shao Kahn then commanded me to aid him in an assault on occupying Edenian forces, in an effort to retake his stronghold. United once more, Shao Kahn, Goro and I laid waste to all who stood in our way! In a flurry of brute strength and magic, we forced our way up to the throne room. The door was reinforced by some magical spell, but it was no match for our combined might. With a final swing of Shao Kahn's hammer, the door was breached, and Shao Kahn was Emperor of Outworld once more. Though I am bound to him eternally, an opportunity has arisen that might give me the means to free myself. It seems Quan Chi has also survived death, and he has brought word from Shinnok of a plan to take a mighty power for the Forces of Darkness. If I claim that prize for myself, I could sever my bond with Shao Kahn! Until that time, I will continue to play my role as his servant and redirect any suspicions he may have of betrayal to others within our new dark alliance. Once I have the power and I am free of Shao Kahn, I will finish him and finally take the throne of Outworld for myself!"
- MK vs DCU: "A sorcerer who consumes the souls of his victims, Shang Tsung played host to the Mortal Kombat tournament in Earthrealm, stacking the odds in favor of the Emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn. He was finally defeated by the Shaolin monk Liu Kang and has sought to regain the favor of his master, Shao Kahn, ever since. His hatred of Liu Kang runs deep, and he would desire nothing more than to consume the soul of the one warrior who denied him victory."
Powers and abilitiesEdit
As formentioned above, Shang Tsung was cursed by mysterious entities identified only as his gods. The curse forcibly decreases his lifespan, unless he takes the souls of others to replenish himself, and thus, has become one of Shang Tsung's primary objectives to find an infinite source of souls which for him to thrive on. Should Tsung go on without souls, his body will rapidly age and wither and eventually die. However, due to his ability to absorb souls, he has also revealed an unforeseen side effect granting him the ability to shapeshift into the persons' souls he has taken. The change is more than skin deep as he has access to their memories and powers as well. Shang Tsung is not required to steal a person's soul in order to morph into them as he took on the form of Kung Lao to sneak up on Liu Kang. As a sorcerer, Shang Tsung wields incredible black magic, most of it provided by Shao Kahn though after the third and second tournaments, although this is no longer the case. It would appear that he, when paired with Quan Chi, was able to defeat the Thunder God of Earth, Raiden.
Like his rival, Liu Kang, he is associated with the element of fire, able to fire flaming skull-shaped projectiles at his opponent. He also created a giant kobra of fire that easily defeated Raiden during their battle in Deception's opening cinematic. He could also teleport using pools of fire in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. He can also use his element of fire for sorcery and black magic, such as his ability to create portals as seen in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks.
In Deception, early concept sketches of Shang Tsung for Mortal Kombat II revealed that he had a hidden, demonic form, which further shrouds his origin in mystery as to whether or not he was demonic from the start.
- Morphing: Shang Tsung assumes the shape of anyone in the game. In the second and third games, he couldn't morph into the bosses. (Although in Mortal Kombat II, as a fatality, he could briefly morph into Kintaro to punch the opponent in half.) In Trilogy, he could morph into anyone in the PSX, Saturn, and PC versions only. In the Amiga versions of Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat II, Tsung's morph is limited to that of the character he is fighting against. In Deadly Alliance, he can morph into anyone on the Game Boy Advance ports only. (MK, MKII, MK3, UMK3, MKT, MK:DA, MK:SM)
- Flaming Skulls: Shang Tsung sends a fiery skull at his opponent. In the first game, he could throw up to six. In the other games it was either one, two, or three only. (MK, MKII, MK3, UMK3, MKT, MK:SM, MKvs.DCU)
- Flaming Skull Eruption: Shang Tsung summons his fiery skulls to burst out of the ground in a series of three. (MK3, UMK3, MKT, MK:SM, MKvs.DCU)
- Soul Steal: If he needed energy, Shang Tsung drains it from the other player. He also does this in Shaolin Monks in a manner similar to his Mortal Kombat II fatality. (MK:DA, MK:SM, MK:A, MKvs.DCU)
- Forward Fireball: Shang Tsung shoots a fireball at his opponent. (MK:DA, MK:A)
- Fire Ring: Shang Tsung shoots a fireball from each hand. The two fireballs come together in a circle-like process, hitting the opponent at close or far range. (MK:DA, MK:A)
- Hot Escape: He digs into the ground and erupts at his opponent as a means of teleportation. (MKvs.DCU)
|Name||Type||Combination and appearances||Description|
|Soultaker:||Miscellaneous||MKII (U U U LK) MK3, UMK3 and MKT (RN BLK RN BLK [LP]) MKDA (U D U D 2) MKVSDC (D D F F HP)||Shang Tsung grabs or levitates his opponent and consumes their soul, leaving behind a shrunken corpse|
|Body Eruption:||Explosion||MKII ([HK])||Shang Tsung enters his opponent's body. The body violently shakes until it explodes as Shang appears in the opponent's place.|
|Kintaro Morph||Morphing||MKII ([LP] During the match)||Shang Tsung morphs into Kintaro and punches the upper half of the opponent's body clear across the stage.|
|Bed of Nails:||Impalement||MK3, UMK3 and MKT (F F D F [LP])||Shang Tsung makes a bed of spikes rise out of the ground and he slams his dazed opponent into them.|
- Friendship #1: Shang Tsung casts out his hands and makes a rainbow. (MKII)
- Friendship #2: Shang Tsung turns into the main character from the Joust video game and hops offscreen. (MK3, UMK3, MKT)
- Animality: Shang Tsung turns into a cobra and swallows his opponent whole. (MK3, UMK3, MKT)
- Mortal Kombat 2: (Non-Canonical) "Shang Tsung not only turns against and defeats both Kintaro and Shao Kahn, he also takes over their rule of the Outworld. With Shao Kahn's armies in his command, he finally unbalances the furies, and weakens the dimensional gates between the Outworld and the Earth realm. Along with his elite group of sorcerers, he uses this weakness to march a never ending horde of demons into the Earth and doom its inhabitants to eternal darkness. Have a nice day."
- Mortal Kombat 3: (Non-Canonical) "When Shao Kahn overtakes the Earth, he needs Shang Tsung to help locate the remaining humans. Granted new powers, he soon discovers his dark emperor's true plan: As soon as the remaining warriors are disposed of, Kahn will take Tsung's own soul. After learning of this, Tsung turns on his master. He catches Motaro off guard and then defeats Shao Kahn. But before the Earth can return to normal, Tsung takes all the souls as his own. He will forever rule Earth with his own brand of evil."
- Deadly Alliance: (Non-Canonical) "The Deadly Alliance was successful in reviving the mummified remains of the Dragon King's undefeatable army. Shang Tsung, however, began to realize that his relevance in the partnership had evaporated once his talents for soul transplantation were no longer needed. The balance of power within the Deadly Alliance had seemingly been undone. Fearing betrayal, he secretly instructed Kano to steal Quan Chi's amulet in an attempt to gain control of the army. Since part of the soul-transfer spell included the command to obey 'He who possesses the amulet,' the army would obey only Shang Tsung, and not Quan Chi, once the amulet was in his possession. Amulet in hand, Shang Tsung revealed his betrayal to Quan Chi and commanded the army to destroy the sorcerer. Shang Tsung would succeed where others had failed. He would conquer the realms. He would conquer Earth."
- Armageddon: (Non-Canonical) "Empowered by the godlike energy he received from Blaze, Shang Tsung found that he could alter the forms of others. Enraged that he was denied the prize, Shao Kahn charged the sorcerer. With a gesture of his hand, Shang Tsung transformed his former master into a centaur slave. Shang Tsung had become the ruler of Outworld at last."
- MK vs DCU: (Non-Canonical) "Impressed with Captain Marvel's fighting ability but angered by his defeat at the hero's hands, Shang Tsung sought to create a race of super-warriors. They would have Captain Marvel's abilities, but would be a perversion of the hero's image. Through sorcery he combined blood from a torn piece of Captain Marvel's cape with the flesh of a Tarkatan corpse. Never before had his flesh pits echoed with the roar of such a monstrosity. With an army of Super-Tarkatans, Shang Tsung will be invincible!"
Shang Tsung's name was hyphenated in Midway's official press release for the original MK ("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 nineteen years old. (In an MKII feature by the magazine that same year, included was a rough sketch of Tsung's "true form" – a twisted demon. Though it was drawn by MK co-creator John Tobias, this form has never actually appeared in canon.)  In Deadly Alliance he's roughly forty-five. 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 Bo' Rai Cho could not fight in the Mortal Kombat tournament as his victories would be in Outworld's name, hence his training of Liu Kang. Therefore, any victories by Shang Tsung as Grand Champion would be in Earth's favour. However, his Armageddon bio makes reference to Tsung binding his soul to Shao Kahn, which may explain why his victories would count for Outworld. Shang Tsung's Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition bio 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 the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox versions of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (Due to problems between switching character models). However, he did assume the form of Kung Lao and Ermac in the opening cinematics of Deadly Alliance and Armageddon, respectively. 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 MKII 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. Oddly enough, he can't use his weapon in Mortal Kombat: Deception.
- Shao Kahn's lead sorcerer.
- Created Mileena.
- Invited Elder Sub-Zero to enter the Mortal Kombat tournament after MK Mythologies Sub-Zero.
- Captured Sonya's troops before MK1.
- Defeated by Liu Kang in MK1.
- Begged Shao Kahn to spare his soul before MK2.
- Shao Kahn gave him more power than ever before MK3.
- Allied with Quan Chi and formed the Deadly Alliance.
- Killed the fake Shao Kahn along with Quan Chi.
- Killed Liu Kang.
- Enslaved Li Mei's village.
- Allied with Drahmin and Moloch and used them as a trap for Quan Chi.
- Used the Dragon King army to kill Kung Lao.
- Defeated Raiden along with Quan Chi.
- Gravely wounded by Raiden's blast to destroy Onaga.
- He was transported to Shao Kahn's fortress.
- Created Meat.
- Joined the forces of darkness to fight in the last battle in Armageddon.
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