One thousand years ago, the warlord Xu Wenwu discovered a set of ten magical rings, granting him both immortality and near-limitless power. Over the course of his conquests, he formed the Ten Rings, an organization that would amass influence around the world, toppling governments and altering history at key moments. He ultimately met and fell in love with Ying Li, a woman hailing from Ta Lo, an ancient village where humans and mythical creatures lived in harmony. They were married and had two children, Shang-Chi and Xialing. However, Ying Li later was killed defending her children from the Iron Gang, a rival organization of the Ten Rings. Ying Li's death filled Wenwu with immense guilt, leading him to destroy much of the Iron Gang himself and begin training his son to assassinate their leader. This plan was interrupted when Shang abandoned his father's organization after his first mission.
Years later, Wenwu sent his agents to track down Shang and Xialing, having seen visions of his wife's ghost that were giving him clues on how to bring her back to life. Using the twin amulets bestowed upon his children, he was able to reveal a path to Ta Lo, where he believed his wife's soul was being held captive. In truth, he was being misled by a demonic creature known as the Dweller in Darkness, who sought Wenwu's help in releasing it onto the world. Shang and his allies were able to reach Ta Lo and prepare a defense against the Ten Rings' forces, leading to a final fight between him and his father. Wenwu was ultimately defeated in this duel, but not before the Dweller in Darkness could be freed. His soul was absorbed by the beast, killing him, but not before reconciling with his son.