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Shang-Chi Just Discovered the Secret of the Ten Rings

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Shang-Chi has never been a stranger to terrifying threats or overwhelming odds, yet the past year has seen things ramp up like never before for the Master of Kung Fu. While inheriting the legendary Ten Rings has imbued him with more power than he could have possibly imagined, it has also left Shang-Chi fighting for what is rightfully his over and over again. Worse still, he has finally uncovered the true history of these astounding artifacts, and the secrets they hold could consume the entire world.


After being ripped away to an ethereal pagoda to take part in a tournament for the fate of the Ten Rings, Shang-Chi has found himself beset on all sides by new enemies and old allies alike. As seen in the pages of Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings #4 (by Gene Luen Yang, Marcus To, Erick Arciniega, and VC’s Travis Lanham), the titular hero is more than capable of surviving to the next round of the competition, which comes with the privilege of learning precisely what it is they are fighting for. As it turns out, the Ten Rings are more than just weapons, they are the prison for the Marvel Universe’s next major threat, and losing them might mean the end of the world.

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The Secret Origin of Shang-Chi’s Ten Rings

shang-chi ten rings 5 universe ring

As Shang-Chi discovers, the Ten Rings that he is aware of are only part of an even greater set of twelve, although thousands of years prior, they were all a single weapon belonging to Ta Lo’s heroic god Nezha. When the all-consuming Desolation Wyrm reached Ta Lo, Nezha used the immense power of his Universe Ring to bind the otherworldly monstrosity within a pocket dimension. Initially, this was enough to keep the Desolation Wyrm at bay, but when its influence pushed Nezha to commit atrocious acts in its name, the other gods of Ta Lo took it upon themselves to dispatch their brethren before shattering the Universe Ring into something more manageable.

While this story explains the reemergence of the Desolation Wyrm and the gruesome transformation of Shang-Chi’s former love interest Leiko Wu, this also casts an ominous shadow over everything that the Ten Rings have brought about. It certainly imparts some amount of understanding regarding the villainous persona Shang-Chi exhibited upon unleashing the Ten Rings’ power for the first time and could even account for some of Zheng Zu’s actions prior to his death. Unfortunately, it may also mean that the Jade Emperor deciding to pass the Ten Rings on to Shang-Chi was as benevolent as it seemed. And, if it was, it still doesn’t make up for the fact that it has put the world in harm’s way for almost no reason at all.

RELATED: Why Did Jim Starlin Quit Master of Kung Fu So Soon After Co-Creating Shang-Chi?

The Jade Emperor’s Role in Shang-Chi Acquiring the Ten Rings

shang-chi ten rings 5 desolation wyrm would be free

Though Shang-Chi is likely the most capable set of hands that the Ten Rings could have been left in the care of, their true nature calls into question whether his possession of them came as a gift or a curse. Shang-Chi not knowing its history was obviously not something that worked out, but the decision to give them away in the first place still complicated what should have been a simple matter of keeping the Rings safe where they were. For how difficult reaching Ta Lo is already, it is hard to imagine how Shang-Chi could do a better job even with the help of the Five Weapons Society. Then again, keeping them safe may not have been the point.

With the threat of the Desolation Wyrm being released should all Twelve Rings be reunited, giving them to someone outside the bounds of his realm could have been the Jade Emperor’s way of saving Ta Lo from any future suffering. There is always the chance that it was the Jade Emperor’s underhanded way of passing on the task of slaying the beast to Shang-Chi, although that doesn’t seem very likely, especially if he knew about the tournament that would ensue. Whatever the case may be, Shang-Chi at least finally understands what it is he is truly up against, as well as what the stakes will be if he can’t reclaim the Ten Rings for himself.

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