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. The first
Mortal Kombat comic claims that 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, 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
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 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.
Shang Tsung's appearance
in Mortal Kombat 3During 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 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,
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 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
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 realizes 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.