- “Number one in his class, extensive knowledge of training techniques... an impressive military lineage... I believe Li Shang will do an excellent job.”
- ―General Li rationalizing his decision to grant Shang the captain position
General Li Shang is the tritagonist of Disney's 1998 animated feature film, Mulan. The son of an army general, Shang aspires to succeed his father as the leader of "China's greatest troops". Shang's dreams are realized when he is appointed the head of a ragtag group of soldiers that must defend China from the tyranny of Shan Yu.
Shang is the son of General Li, the head of the Imperial Chinese army. During his appointment in the first movie, he is a highly capable leader with a dedication to his cause. It is mentioned that he was first in his class in regard to military affairs and was knowledgeable in training tactics. He is often disparagingly called a 'Pretty Boy' due to his dashing good looks and strong physique.
With the weight of China's safety within his hands, Shang was a powerful, no-nonsense force during his time as the general of his division. When dealing with his soldiers, as well as his supervisor, the Emperor's consul Chi-Fu, he relied on verbal and physical force to get his messages across, with his training methods evidently being brutal and exhausting, though effective in the grand scheme of things, showing an efficient leader behind the harsh exterior.
A major theme in the film involves gender stereotypes, both male and female. This is relevant in Shang's case as, through his song, "I'll Make a Man Out of You", as well as his treatment towards Mulan following the events of her reveal, he is shown to be internally sexist, having been brought into a society where women are looked down upon, while men and exaggerated masculinity was ideal. Nevertheless, Shang is capable of having his viewpoints changed, as Mulan's undebatable bravery and capability were enough to prove gender is no matter in terms of heroism deserving of praise, being one of the first individuals to take up for the latter after her sheer wit led to the defeat of feared Hun Shan Yu.
Also, despite his skill at military affairs, he seems to be somewhat lacking in social skills, as he has trouble telling Mulan about his romantic feelings for her, or even properly congratulating her following her success in saving China, coyly using the grammatically incorrect "You fight good." statement to do so. This is further explored in the sequel, where he is shown to be a polar opposite of Mulan, as the former is quick to discard his true feelings and emotions for the sake of missions and assignments, whereas Mulan follows the mantra of "one's duty is to one's heart". Nevertheless, both sides of the coin can be consequential, allowing both Shang and Mulan, when joined together, to balance one another out, establishing a healthy relationship both professionally and romantically.
Shang is a tall, muscular Chinese man with tanned skin, dark brown eyes, and shoulder-length black hair tied in a bun adorned with a red clip.
His primary appearance has him wearing a black-and-gray Chinese warrior armor that resembles a Genji armor with gold trim. Beneath his tunic is an off-white long sleeve tunic, khaki pants, and black-and-white Chinese warrior boots. He also wears a red cape on the back which on the front has tied on his neck.
When he trains the new recruits including a disguised Fa Mulan, Shang was in shirtless and wears dark khaki Chinese pants adorned with a teal ribbon which is tied on the left side and black toe shoes and white socks. He is soon wearing an off-white tunic after he removes it during their heavy training.
In Mulan II during his marriage with Fa Mulan, Shang's hair is loose and wears an off-white sleeveless Chinese garb along with khaki Chinese pants, black toe shoes, and white socks. He later replaces a light brown Chinese tunic when he was riding a horse together with his wife.
In their mission, Shang maintains his primary outfit on the first film as his armor and his tunic are now in a different shade of gold along with the trim of his warrior armor now being black.
At the end of the film, Shang wears a traditional Chinese tunic that resembles the male traditional Korean hanbok and a matching gat and it was worn by the male Korean citizens in the 1800s.
- Above average strength: When he was training the recruits to fight the Huns, where he had his men train carrying weights, he picked up "Ping"'s weight and carried it in addition to his own without being affected by it, even though his men struggled to carry one weight. He has also shown able to fight the mighty Shan Yu unarmed as the Hun leader found it difficult to subdue him.
- High Pain Tolerance / Lack of Sense of Pain: He pulled an arrow out of his shoulder with no expression, had a statue possibly crush his fingers, and took multiple beatings without care.
- Bojutsu: When he trains the new recruits including Mulan who is disguised as Ping. Shang uses a bamboo stick or a wooden stick that resembles a bo staff as he demonstrates the art of bojutsu to show how to master this Chinese martial art. He was seen deflecting the apples by spinning the wood stick he wielded.
Shortly after his initial introduction in the film, Shang is appointed as an army captain by his father General Li. The appointment comes at the protest of Chi-Fu, the Emperor's consul, who claims that Shang is too young for such responsibility. General Li defends the choice, noting Shang's numerous accomplishments as well as his impressive military lineage. As a slight compromise, Shang is ordered to train the new recruits, and then, pending Chi-Fu's approval, join the main army in the Tung Shao Pass to halt Shan Yu and his army's advance towards the Imperial City. Shang is initially excited at the prospect but is slightly disappointed when the new recruits are shown to be lacking in skill. During the training montage, when Fa Mulan, disguised as Ping, proves to be unable to make it through any of the training regiment, either failing via Yao, Ling, and Chien Po or trying to cheat thanks to Mushu, which would be putting her fellow troops in danger without strict strength and discipline to protect their lives as well as her own, Shang confronts her one night, hands her the reigns to Khan, and tells her to go home, dismissing her from the unit. However, the next morning, hearing a commotion, Shang emerges from his tent to find, to his shock and surprise, Ping had completed the initial challenge he set at the start of the training regiment with climbing a tall pillar and retrieving the arrow he shot into the top of it, convincing him to allow Ping back into the unit after seeing the other recruits cheering on Ping for "his" success. After hard training, he is able to turn them into respectable soldiers. Shang then goes to Chi-Fu, who refuses to grant his approval, despite Shang's protests. Chi-Fu disparages both the soldiers and Shang, hinting that he believes Shang only became captain because of his father. Chi-Fu then threatens that Shang's troops will never see battle after the General reads his report.
A letter later comes for Shang (supposedly from the General, but actually faked by an irate Mushu over hearing Chi-Fu declare that Shang's troops will never see battle and thereby threaten his plans to help Mulan bring honor to the Fa family) ordering him to move his troops to the front and rendezvous at the Tung Shao Pass to reinforce the main Imperial Army waiting for Shan Yu and the Hun army. Coming to a village in the mountain pass that General Li had taken his army to protect, they discover that the village had been razed by the Huns, with no survivors from the residents that had been living there. While searching for potential survivors from either the village or General Li's army, Shang learns that the entire army, including his father, perished in the battle when a nervous Chi-Fu calls Shang over to show him the ravaged remains of what had been General Li and the Imperial Army's best troops that the Emperor's consul had discovered, and Chien Po brings Shang his father's helmet, intact, but with the feathers on it broken and bent. Shang takes a moment to mourn, making a small shrine to his father, before taking his soldiers in pursuit of the Huns, who are headed toward the Imperial City, realizing that with General Li and the main Imperial army destroyed, Shang's smaller force of freshly-trained recruits are the only defense the Emperor has left before the Huns would be able to overtake the Imperial City. They soon meet the Hun army after Mushu accidentally fires a cannon, causing his position to be given away to Shan Yu and the Huns, only to learn that they are hopelessly outnumbered. Shang prepares for a last stand. However, Ping is able to stop the Huns by burying them in an avalanche "he" has triggered. Shang is caught in the avalanche but is saved by Ping.
After Shang recovers, he thanks Ping and accepts "him" as a trusted friend. However, while Ping is receiving treatment (due to a slash wound "he" received from Shan Yu), it is discovered that "he" is a woman named Mulan. Though the law states that a woman who is discovered in the army is to be killed, Shang spares her due to a debt he owes her for saving him. Shang then leaves Mulan and leads his army to the Imperial City. Chi-Fu attempts to beg him to execute her, but he angrily refuses as she had saved his life; thus, he repays his debt of gratitude.
At the Imperial City, Shang and his troops are honored for defeating the Huns. However, he, along with the rest of his troops (minus Chi-fu), are seen to be downcast due to Mulan. Mulan suddenly arrives in the city and tries to warn Shang that the Huns are alive (due to having seen them pop out of the snow). Shang refuses to believe her as she had lied about her identity and continues his way to the palace. As Shang presents the sword of Shan Yu to the Emperor, Shan Yu's falcon suddenly snatches the sword away to hand it back to its owner, and several Huns, Shan Yu's elite officers, hidden in one of the parade dragons as performers, capture the Emperor and barricade the palace. Shang and his soldiers attempt to lead a rescue mission but are unable to break through the palace's front doors as the Huns barred it, making an attempt to punch them open with a battering ram to be almost futile. Mulan takes charge and although Shang is initially hesitant to follow her lead, he agrees to join her a little later as they climb up pillars to an upper floor, using the skills he taught them back during training to do so. While Mulan, Yao, Ling, and Chien Po take down the Hun guards, Shang rushes to a balcony and fights Shan Yu, during which the trio takes the Emperor to safety and Mulan prevents Shan Yu from pursuing them. As Shan Yu threatens Shang for robbing him of his victory, Mulan chooses to forgo her own safety to assist him, revealing to Shan Yu that she was the one who decimated his army with the avalanche.
After Shan Yu is killed, Shang is seen running outside the palace, where Mulan falls on him. He later defends Mulan as a hero when Chi-Fu begins ungratefully scolding her, nearly being forced to assault the Emperor's consul for his disrespect before the Emperor intervenes. Shang is among the first to bow to Mulan when the Emperor honors her as the hero of China. As Mulan prepares to go home, Shang attempts to tell her how he feels but ends up stuttering out a reference to her fighting talents. Shang is shown to be disappointed in his failure, but after being counseled by the Emperor, he chooses to travel to Mulan's home to see her. He speaks to her, somewhat nervously, under the guise that he is returning her (technically her father's) helmet, which she had left behind. As Mulan's father, Fa Zhou realizes what Shang is trying to say, he motions to Mulan, who then invites Shang to dinner that night, which he greatly accepts.
In the sequel, Shang returns as the deuteragonist. One month later, the film begins with him proposing to Mulan, to which she gladly agrees. During a meeting with the Emperor, he is promoted from captain to general. Shang and Mulan are directed by the emperor to escort his three daughters to a neighboring kingdom in hopes that an arranged marriage between them and the three princes of the opposing nation will form an alliance against the Mongols, who are threatening to attack the northern border of China.
He and Mulan go through many conflicts around their romantic relationship, which is mostly instigated by Mushu, who had learned from the Fa Family Ancestors that if Mulan marries Shang, his family guardians will become hers, and he'll be reduced back to his former position as gong ringer in the process. Midway through the film, he and the group are attacked. Shang and Mulan are left dangling from a bridge. Since the bridge cannot support both of them, Shang lets go to save Mulan. When the Princesses reveal that they don't want to go through with the marriage, Mulan offers to take their place, as Shang is presumably dead. At the end of the film, however, it is revealed he somehow survived the fall (with help from his horse), and Mushu saves the day by pretending to be the Golden Dragon of Unity and freeing the princesses from their vows. Mushu (still posing as the Golden Dragon) marries Shang and Mulan, using that as the marriage to bring peace and harmony between the two neighboring kingdoms of China. Mulan later tells Shang about Mushu and Shang makes the choice to combine both families' temples so that Mushu can remain a family guardian and Mulan's most trusted confidant.
In the live-action version, he is separated into two different characters. The first one is Chen Honghui, one of the recruited soldiers who later falls in love with Mulan. The second character is Commander Tung, who acts as Mulan's tutor. According to producer Jason Reed, the decision to omit Shang from the movie was partially inspired by the #MeToo movement, under the belief that having the commanding officer of an army serve as a “sexual love interest” was inappropriate. This decision was met with notable controversy.
He doesn't appear in the first two games but makes an appearance in the third game as captain of the Chinese army to protect The Land of Dragons from falling into the hands of Shan Yu.
He initially disliked Ping (who is Mulan in disguise) because of "his" vast shortcomings in terms of fighting but learned to trust "him" after "he" caused a mountain of snow to fall down on Shan Yu and his army. However, Mushu accidentally lets the truth slip and Shang realizes that Ping is actually Fa Mulan. Though she was supposed to be sentenced to death, he spared her life.
When it turns out that Shan Yu is alive and heading for the Imperial City, Mulan tries to warn him, but he refuses to listen until he sees the truth for himself. He then rescues the Emperor and thanks, Mulan, Sora, Donald, and Goofy for their help in protecting their country and ultimately defeating Shan Yu.
Upon Sora's second visit, a black hooded man (who is actually Riku) had visited the Emperor and easily defeated the Captain. After Mulan, Sora, Donald, and Goofy defeat the Storm Rider Heartless, Mulan becomes Shang's partner in protecting their world and their Emperor, much to their pleasure.
During the end credits, Shang is seen sharing a romantic moment with Mulan, until the three soldiers, Chien Po, Yao, and Ling reveal themselves when they are spying on them, but ruining it. Mulan is amused, but Shang is outraged and chases them, which amuses Mulan all the more.
Captain Li Shang makes occasional appearances at the Disney theme parks around the world, making very rare meetable appearances. Shang appeared in the castle show Disney in the Stars at Hong Kong Disneyland. Mulan and Shang appear in the stage show The Golden Mickeys (Disney Cruise Line).
- Li Shang's act of turning the entire camp against Mulan is actually a common technique used by sergeants during training - trouble-makers will not be singled out by the sergeant, which would result in earning them sympathy, but instead, earn all recruits a punishment.
- Li's act of singling Yao out with the retrieval of the arrow is also a technique used in training - smart-mouths will be singled out for humiliation, not only to show that they are wrong but also to show they are a risky person to agree with or be friends with.
- Li Shang is possibly ambidextrous. He tends to do a lot with the left hand as well as right same with Mulan.
- According to the audio commentary on the special edition Mulan DVD, Li Shang was considered a dorky guy despite being physically fit due to his inability to talk to Mulan. An example of this would be after she defeats Shan Yu he says "You fight good" in a nervous way.
- Although he is great at kung-fu, he is a clumsy dancer as seen in a comic, and appears to be somewhat clumsy in the second movie, much like Mulan herself, initially.
- He appears to be a speed reader in the second movie.
- If he is "number one in his class" it's possible he has the "Jinshi (金石)" title.
- His half of the yin and yang necklace is the yin side, associated with femininity.
- He and Mulan are the only non-royal members of the Disney Princess line-up.
- Li Shang's apparent interest in Mulan while she disguised herself as a man led to fans speculate on him being bisexual. This never received official confirmation.
- Maleh, Linda (February 28, 2020). "Disney Blames #MeToo For Li Shang’s Absence From ‘Mulan’ In New Controversy". Forbes. Retrieved on February 28, 2020.