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Shang Tsung was born on the Earth thousands of years ago. An adept sorceror, he pledged his loyalty to Shao Kahn and was made a free-roaming sorceror, able to travel from realm to realm without detection. At Kahn's request, Shang Tsung entered the Shaolin Martial Arts Tournament and became it's champion. He not only defeated his opponents, but drained their souls as well. His mission was to win ten tournaments in a row, for then Shao Kahn would be able to step through the dimensional barriers and claim Earth as his own. Shang's confidence proved to be his undoing, as he was defeated in the next tournament by a Shaolin monk named Kung Lao.

Shang journeyed to the Outworld in defeat. Prematurely aged and weakened from his defeat, his life was nonetheless spared by Kahn. The emperor granted him immortality, and sent him back to Earth with the massive Goro and his bodyguard Reptile to once again take control of the contest. This time, Goro entered the tournament, and quickly defeated the reigning champion Kung Lao. Having taken control, Shang absorbed Lao's soul, and thus a centuries-long reign of terror descended on the once noble tournament. He retained the memories of the souls he absorbed, and through Kung Lao he learned of the Temple of Elements. He also became aware of another free roaming sorceror, Quan Chi , who served a fallen Elder god Shinnok. Quan Chi desired to know the location of the temple, and Shang offered to disclose the location, for a price. Shao Kahn had held on to the late Queen Sindel's soul, and Shang asked Shinnok to take the soul, taint it with evil, and reincarnate it on Earth. This too would allow Shao Kahn to enter the Earth realm, and it would serve as a backup should Shang's original plan fail.

Goro remained undefeated throughout the years, and Shang continued to absorb the souls of those the Shokan prince bested in combat. Nine generations passed, and Shang never lost control of the tournament. Almost five-hundred years after he and Goro arrived on the Earth realm, the tenth Shaolin tournament was about to take place. Shang, desiring the strongest souls for this final tournament, began searching for the most skilled warriors to compete. He personally invited Rayden, the powerful god of thunder that was the protector of the Earth and one of those Shao Kahn was attempting to decieve. He hired Sub-Zero to compete, and resurrected his deceased rival Scorpion to face him. Many fighters came to Shang's hidden palace to fight in the tournament; some by accident and some to restore the competition's honor. The group of fighters was the best that Shang Tsung had seen during his five- hundred year reign.

Shang watched in delight as warrior after warrior fell. Goro continued to decimate his opponents, and Shang eagerly drank their defeated souls. Believing victory was ensured, Shang was surprised when a Shaolin warrior named Liu Kang defeated and killed Goro. His long reign over, Shang and Reptile had no choice but to flee back to the Outworld. Returning to Shao Kahn's court, Shang begged for his life when he told his emperor of his defeat. He revealed a new plan, one to lure the Earth warriors into the Outworld for another tournament. No matter what the outcome, they could keep the warriors and use them to unbalance the furies. Intrigued by Shang's plan, Shao Kahn let him live and even restored his youth. Now possessing more power than ever, Shang would compete in the tournament to absorb more souls for his emperor.

The tournament turned out to be a disaster, as Shao Kahn was defeated in battle and the Earth warriors escaped. Tired of attempting to win the Earth realm through tournaments, Kahn was pleased when Shinnok finally finished the complex spell that resurrected Queen Sindel on Earth. The portal between the realms opened, and Shao Kahn began the invasion of the Earth. Shang's magic talents were needed to locate the surviving humans on Earth so that they could be eliminated. However, during this time, Shang learned a startling fact: once his services were no longer needed, Shao Kahn was going to kill him and consume his soul. Thus, Shang turned against his master just as a group of Earth warriors attacked. Using their attack as a diversion, Shang escaped from the Outworld to parts unknown.
1. Mortal Kombat 2. Mortal Kombat 2 3. Mortal Kombat 3 4. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 5. Mortal Kombat Trilogy 6. Mortal Kombat Mythologies (cameo in cinema scene)
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