Shang Tsung is a recurring antagonist in the Mortal Kombat series.
Pre Mortal KombatEdit
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 considered 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 Elements – but failed to inform Quan Chi that no sorcerer could enter the Temple of Elements 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 that 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 1Edit
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 winning streak. Liu Kang then challenged Shang Tsung in Kombat to restore the honor 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, after 10,000 years in the making: the restoration to life of his beloved former Queen, Sindel.