Shang Tsung (尚宗)[1]; is a 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 final boss.

About Shang Tsung Edit

A powerful, deadly sorcerer and a primary villain in the Mortal Kombatfranchise, Shang Tsung is a 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 facade, disguising Tsung's true intellectual and mental sophistication. His arch-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 allegiance to Shao Kahn granted him the status of a free roaming sorcerer. As such, 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 Delia, Shinnok, Shao Kahn, and Quan Chi can match Shang Tsung's skills as a sorcerer.

Appearance Edit

Shang Tsung initially had the appearance of a decrepit old man. His skin was pale with long, balding white hair, a beard and mustache, with dangling thin fingers and long fingernails. He wore robes with shades of blue and yellow and had a katana holstered at his side at all times. 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 both MKII and MK3, he wore yellow and black clothes. In Deadly Alliance and beyond, he wears a heavy red uniform. Interestingly, he is depicted with pupils, having brown eyes.

Character Development Edit

Shang Tsung is based off of Lo Pan from the 1986 film Big Trouble in Little China. Originally his name was intended to be Shang Lao. He used a staff and had the look of an ancient Chinese royal.

Bios Edit

  • Mortal Kombat - "A treacherous sorcerer who consumes the souls of his victims, Shang Tsung has played host to the last nine Mortal Kombat tournaments in Earthrealm, stacking the odds in favor of his master. Originally from Earthrealm, Shang Tsung's magical abilities led him to discover the realm of Outworld. There he fell in league with its ruler, Shao Kahn, and pledged his life to him in return for enhanced power. He is now bound to the emperor by powerful dark magic. For centuries he has submissively done Shao Kahn's bidding. Should he fail in his mission to secure Earthrealm, he will suffer the emperor's wrath."

Kombat Characteristics Edit

Power and Abilities Edit

As mentioned 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. Shang Tsung's primary objective is to find an infinite source of souls on which to thrive indefinitely. Without souls, his body will rapidly age, wither, and eventually die.

However, due to his ability to absorb souls, he has also discovered an unforeseen side effect, granting him the ability to shapeshift into the people whose 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, 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. In addition to his projectiles, he has the ability to create a giant, flaming cobra of fire that easily defeated Raiden (as seen in Deception's opening cinematic). In Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Shang Tsung could teleport using pools of fire. 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. Early concept sketches of Shang Tsung for Mortal Kombat II revealed that he had a hidden, demonic form.

Additionally, Shang possesses knowledge of genetics, having created such biological abominations as Mileena and Meatin his Flesh Pits.

Movelist Edit

Signature Moves Edit

  • Morphing: Shang Tsung assumes the shape of anyone in the game.
  • 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 is one, two, or three only. In MKII this is called Fire Skull.
    • The enhanced version of this is called Triple Skulls and fires three skulls, one after another.
  • Slide Launch: Shang Tsung does a slide kick that trips the opponent, then launches them into the air.
    • The enhanced version is called Slide Shot. After the opponent is launched in the air, Shang Tsung shoots off a fire skull at the opponent.
  • Flaming Skulls: Shang Tsung summons his fiery skulls to burst out of the ground in a series of three. In MKII, this is called Ground Skull and can be done from three distances: Close, Medium, and Far.
    • The enhanced version of this is called Triple Skulls and fires three skulls, one after another.
  • Up Skull: Shang Tsung throws a skull upwards hitting the opponent from mid-air. This can be done from three distances: AboveBehind, and In Front. This move is similar to Sektor's Up Missile.
    • The enhanced version is called Skull Storm and fires three skulls, one for each of the three distances and they all come down at the same time.

Sorcerer Edit

Adds Flaming Skull Eruption, Mysterious Magic and Soul Steal. Shang Tsung's hands glow green with soul energy.

  • Flaming Skull Eruption: Shang Tsung summons his fiery skulls to burst out of the ground in a series of three. In MKII, this is called Ground Skull and can be done from three distances: Close, Medium, and Far.
    • The enhanced version is called Ground Eruption in which a Far range skull appears first, followed by a Medium range skull, and a Close range skull. The skulls will also launch the opponent towards Shang Tsung instead of away, and thus has the potential to hit the opponent with all three skulls.
  • Mysterious Magic: Shang Tsung glows with a green aura, and runs toward the opponent, suddenly disappearing just before reaching them, and reappearing right behind them to strike with a low sliding kick.
    • The enhanced version is called Deadly Magic. Instead of a sliding low kick, Shang Tsung throws flaming skulls at the opponent.
  • Soul Steal: Shang Tsung steals a small portion of his opponent's life force. He also does this in Shaolin Monks in a manner similar to his Mortal Kombat fatality.
    • The enhanced version is called Soul Capture. Shang Tsung stays as the opponent for a longer time.
    • If Shang Tsung delivers the round-winning blow with Soul Steal, a glitch will cause him to have the damage boost for the rest of the rounds.

Shapeshifter Edit

Adds Ninja Morph, Highlander Morph and Spartan Morph. Shang Tsung wears a bracelet on his right hand with a emerald jewel in it.

  • Ninja Morph: Shang Tsung transforms into a ninja like being with a ninjato sword. Tsung will remain as the ninja form for thirty seconds or canceled.
    • The enhanced version is called Way of the Ninja. Shang Tsung stays in this form for sixty seconds or until canceled.
  • Highlander Morph: Shang Tsung transforms into a highlander like being with a claymore sword. Tsung will remain as the highlander form for thirty seconds or until canceled.
    • The enhanced version is called Highlander's Wrath. Shang Tsung stays in this form for sixty seconds or until canceled.
  • Spartan Morph: Shang Tsung transforms into a spartan like being with a hoplon shield and xiphos sword. Tsung will remain as the spartan form for thirty seconds or until canceled.
    • The enhanced version is called THIS IS SPARTA!. Shang Tsung stays in this form for sixty seconds or until canceled.

Firestarter Edit

Adds Fireball, Inferno Fists and Fire Teleport. Shang Tsung's eyes glow red with fiery energy.

  • Fireball: Shang Tsung shoots a fireball at his opponent.
    • The enhanced version is called Inferno Ball, which is more powerful.
  • Inferno Fists: Shang Tsung engulfs his hands in flames. Any punch landed causes fire damage to the opponent after the blow has landed.
    • The enhanced version is called Lava Fists, which the fire damage last longer.
  • Fire Teleport: Shang Tsung turns into flames and teleports behind the opponent. Replaces Hot Escape.
    • The enhanced version is called Fire Teleport Shot, in which Shang Tsung shoots a fireball after he gets behind the opponent.

Other Moves Edit

  • Throw: Shang Tsung grabs his opponent by the throat and drains a portion of his or her life force. He then flings the opponent away either forwards. This attack restores a very small amount of Shang Tsung's health.
  • Reverse Throw: Shang Tsung grabs his opponent's neck while punches in 4 times and then throw back away.

X-Ray Move Edit

  • Your Soul is Mine: Shang Tsung magically drains a portion of the soul out of his opponent, showing only the muscles due to the soul taken from the skin (and the ribs broken due to his hands inside the opponent's chest), then knees his/her skull causing it to break.

Finishing Moves Edit

Fatalities Edit

  • Soultaker: Soultaker: Shang Tsung consumes the soul of his opponent, leaving behind a shrunken corpse. In MKvsDCU, he transforms into his victim first, picks them up by the back of the neck, consumes the soul, then throws them to the floor before reverting back to normal. In MKvsSJU, this move has been downgraded to a throw. 
  • Soul Steal: Shang Tsung levitates his victim and slams him/her onto the ground three times before jumping on top of them, each time extracting a part of their soul.

Brutalities Edit

  • Numb Skull: When Shang Tsung fires a flaming skull at the opponent, the skull decapitates the opponent and the skull lands on the headless opponent, with a skull's mouth open, making it look like the opponent is screaming in pain.
  • Soul Crushing Defeat: When Shang Tsung does his X-Ray Move, when he knees the opponent in the jaw, he decapitates them.
  • Lethal Magic: When Shang Tsung does his Deadly Magic and does his flaming skull, it goes straight through the opponent's chest. (Sorcerer Variation)
  • Go Ninja Go!: When Shang Tsung does a certain combo in his Ninja Morph, he will cut the opponent's arms off before cutting them in half vertically. (Shapeshifter Variation)
  • Fiery Demise: When Shang Tsung does a Inferno Ball and shoots it at the opponent, they are burned to the skeleton. (Firestarter Variation)

Sequences Edit

Battle Intro Edit

Shang Tsung walks to the battlefield disguised as his opponent. He then reveals his true form and says, "Your soul is mine!"

Victory Pose Edit

Shang Tsung steals his opponent’s soul, and laughs once he’s consumed it.

Trivia Edit

  • Shang Tsung's Battle Cry originated from the Mortal Kombat movie and the TV series Mortal Kombat: Conquest.
  • In Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance's Konquest mode, it is revealed that one of the souls he consumed during his tournaments was that of the samurai Muso Gonnosuke.
  • Shaolin MonksDeadly AllianceArmageddon 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 II, Shang Tsung had 2 different win poses, in the arcade and earlier home versions of the game Shang Tsung had a normal win pose where he would just stand but in the Sega 32X (after completing the game) and Saturn versions it was found out that Tsung had a laughing animation during his win pose.
  • In Mortal Kombat 3, occasionally, Shang Tsung appears on the Master tournament ladder twice.
  • Tsung'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 old man look as his alternate costume, to the point when his voice changes to his older tone when used in game.
  • Shang Tsung is the only character who appears in all of the 2-D games that is absent from Mortal Kombat 4. However Shinnok's Impersonate move shares some of Shang Tsung's abilities, though impling that Tsung is a sorcerer and Shinnok is an Elder God.
  • A recurring animal motif for this character is cobras. Shang Tsung's Animality in MK3 is a cobra, and in the MK Deception intro he unleashed a huge flame in the form of a cobra to knock out Raiden. His primary outfit in MK 2011 also has cobras designed in his shoulders, back and belt.
  • Shang Tsung appears on a movie poster during Johnny Cage's ending in Deadly Alliance.
  • Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe reveals that Shang is accompanied by two women, who appear to be lovers. However, the game isn't canon.
    • Minus the clown model, his "Bang Bang!" fatality in MK 2011 is identical to, and could be perhaps perceived as a parody of The Joker's "Killing Joke" fatality from Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, due to its censorship in North America, such as the headshot here being considerably more violent than the Joker's fatality. It should be noted that in the Fatality Trainer, when the fatality is introduced, it mentions Tsung having "picked up some tricks from an old foe". Officially, of course, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe remains non-canon.
  • Up until MK 2011, Shang Tsung's elderly form remained unplayable as it was eliminated ever since MKII.
  • In his MK (2011) Ladder ending, Shang Tsung is taught a move to defeat Liu Kang, who has become villainous, reversing the roles of hero and villain, though Tsung's motivations are based purely on revenge.
  • In MKII there's a color palette swapping glitch which occur when there's a Shang Tsung Mirror Match. The glitch start out that if both players or CPU choose Shang Tsung as their character, while in battle the first Tsung to morph into another character will reset the color palette back to default. If the second Tsung also morph into another character other than the one the first Tsung morph into, the palette will stay default. If the second Tsung morph into the same character that the first Tsung morph into, then that character palette will be the alternate color palette. Only the Tsung who had the default palette and the first to revert back to normal would be the default color Shang Tsung, the second Tsung to revert back would be the alternate color Shang Tsung. This minor glitch often cause confusion to players during a multiplayer battle due to the palette swap when morphing, this was fix in the sequels. In MK3Ultimate MK3, and MK Trilogy if Player 1's Shang Tsung morph into another character, he would use that character's default color palette, if Player 2's Shang Tsung morph into another character (whether if they are the same character as the one Player 1 morph into or not), that character would appear in their alternate color outfit regardless which solved the problem of the palette swapping glitch.
  • In MK (2011)'s Story Mode, after Quan Chi tells Kung Lao that "no Earthrealm boy could stop this Deadly Alliance", Shang Tsung said that "on that we agree". This implies that they normally do not get along.
    • In some background material, however, their disagreements have not stopped their dealings with one another from being mutually beneficial. In the instruction manual for Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, there is a reference to Quan Chi learning of the location to the Map of Elements from none other than Shang Tsung. As it turns out, Shang Tsung gained the knowledge from consuming the soul of The Great Kung Lao.
  • Though Shang Tsung could not morph into a hidden character until that character was unlocked, the Sega Genesis and Saturn versions of MK3 and UMK3 allowed him to morph into characters that many other versions lack. Characters like Smoke, Rain, and Noob Saibot.
  • MK (2011) was the only game to mention Shang Tsung's origin. His bio states that he is originally from Earthrealm and discovered a portal to Outworld.
  • Shang Tsung is the only character in MK 2011 whose throw move heals him.
  • In a Top 10 list hosted by, Shang Tsung was placed at #7 of the bearded characters in video games.
  • In MK (2011), Shang Tsung appears to bleed red but whenever it stains on someone, it appears as a pitch black color. Whether this is intentional or a glitch is unknown.
  • In MK (2011), Shang Tsung frequently precedes many of his special attacks, including all his fatalities, with the phrase "你现在死!", which means "you die now" in Chinese.
  • Tsung was originally supposed to have a Fatality in the original Mortal Kombat where he beheads the opponent with the katana at his side. Due to recent hacking, it was discovered that the sprites for this still exists within the ROM.