The Mandarin is the child of British and Mongolian aristocrats, both of whom died while he was a small boy. Being extremely vain, the Mandarin squandered every last penny of his inheritance training himself in science, military tactics, and mystic martial arts. This bankrupted his family's estate, resulting in Mandarin becoming a homeless wanderer. Blaming the world for his misfortune rather than his own vanity and short-sightedness, Mandarin sought out a method of vengeance on civilization.
The Mandarin eventually discovered an alien ship belonging to the dragon-like Makluans. The Mandarin looted the technology within, including taking ten energy-blasting rings and using them as his personal weapons. In his endless war on civilization, the Mandarin has clashed with Iron Man many times.
After losing his hands, the radiation of the rings regenerated them as dragon-like claws. After this, he grew delusional that the rings were magic and he had to get rid of the "impure" technology and return the world to the glory of ancient China. He managed to do so with a device called the Heart of Darkness, but he was infected with a techno-virus that made him victim of the same Heart of Darkness.