Culture

What is the Meaning of Shang-Chi's Name in Marvel Comics?

You've seen the character in action, now discover the meaning behind his name.

By Jo Craig

September 3, 2021

Marvel’s first Asian superhero, Shang-Chi, has debuted in the live-action Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, with Chinese-Candian actor Simu Liu at the helm. Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Chiu-Wai Leung also star in the action-packed Phase 4 spectacle.

As Shang-Chi’s standalone film is predicted to drive a wave of new fans towards the lore of the character, we wanted to highlight what Shang-Chi’s name actually means in Marvel Comics, and how it ties in with his heritage.

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What Does Shang-Chi Mean?

Created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, with a first appearing in Special Marvel Edition #15 in 1973, Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, was developed as the unknown son of Dr. Fu Manchu – a character from Sax Rohmer’s novels.

With a visual style inspired by the iconic Bruce Lee, Englehart stated that Shang-Chi’s name was a by-product of studying I-Ching – translated as Book of Changes containing ancient Chinese divination text. Some sources report the Chinese character 升 (shēng) means “ascending”, combined with ‘chi’ which means “vital energy”.

Shang-Chi’s name is written as 上氣 with Traditional Chinese reading 尚氣. Shang-Chi is also romanized by the Hanyu Pinyin as “Shàng qì” (pronounced “Sh-ah-ng chee”) in Mandarin and “Seung hei” in Cantonese.

Marvel Comics stated that Shang-Chi’s name had the literal translation of “the rising and advancing of the spirit,” however, the Chinese characters of the martial artist’s name were queried down the line.

Shang-Chi’s Chinese Characters

According to Australian-Malaysian actor and comedian, Ronny Chieng, Shang-Chi’s Chinese characters, 上氣, are incorrect. Marvel has stated that, in short, Shang-Chi’s name translates to “Rising Spirit”. However, Chieng has politely raised an issue with this translation.

Within a Twitter post from 2019, Chieng tagged Marvel Studios to supply a “humble suggestion”. Chieng asked that Shang-Chi’s Chinese characters be changed because they actually read “Upper Air”, instead of “Rising Spirit”. Chieng recommended changing his characters to 神奇 (Shen Qi), which means “miraculous” and keeps relitvely close to the original version of the name. Additionally, Chieng highlighted that Shen 神 means “God” or “God-like”, and while the Chinese characters could be changed, Shang-Chi could still retain this as his English name.

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Jo Craig
@geekyjj77

Being a pop culture writer and a proud geek of all trades, Jo loves to dissect fandoms and marvel at their insides. The entirety of The Lord of the Rings, superhero origins, the Ghost of Tsushima score, the Wings of Freedom, and the endless search for a sleepy Tyranitar are but a few of Jo's passions, with a penchant for contributing to the geek culture community.

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