|“||Call in the wolves! All of them! I want them ready to move! The Year of the Peacock begins now!||”|
|—Shen to Boss Wolf, Kung Fu Panda 2|
In his youth, Shen was obsessed with using the powder of fireworks to create weapons. When he overheard the Soothsayer (his childhood nanny) foretelling to his concerned parents that he was to be stopped by a warrior of black and white, he led his wolves on a raid to annihilate all pandas. But upon his return, his parents banished him from the city forever. Shen plotted his revenge for many years, eventually creating an unstoppable weapon, a cannon. Although his weapon and army had brought him temporarily to power in Gongmen City, the Soothsayer's fortune did indeed come true when he was defeated by Po, the foretold warrior of black and white.
Shen was born into the noble Peacock family, who were esteemed by the people of Gongmen City for their invention of fireworks. But as a young Shen began to dabble in the making of weapons with the use of the fireworks' gunpowder, his loving father and mother grew worried and asked their court soothsayer what his future held. She proclaimed that if he continued with his dark pursuits, he would be defeated by "a warrior of black and white".
Shen overheard this prophecy and sought to defy it, fearing any obstacles in his plans. Assuming the "warrior of black and white" referred to a panda, Shen led his wolf followers in decimating a farming village populated by the black-and-white-colored bears, intending to leave none alive. After the massacre was complete, Shen returned home, expecting praise from his parents. However, his parents were horrified at their son's deeds and instead banished him from the city forever, their throne eventually being turned over to the stewardship of Master Thundering Rhino and the Kung Fu Council. Shen left Gongmen City with his followers, fueled with anger and feeling wronged by his parents, as he considered his actions as bravely defying fate to realize his goals. He swore revenge, promising he would someday return and rule supreme over all of China.
Many years passed. Deep in the mountains, Shen's wolves worked tirelessly to complete their master's ultimate weapon: a cannon that would bring an end to the use of Kung Fu. When Boss Wolf informed him that they had run out of metal to use as material, Shen ordered him to attack the farthest villages and steal all the metal they could find. While he and a group of wolves set out to do so, Shen decided that it was time to move forward with his plans.
Shen returned to Gongmen City and marched up to his former home, easily dispatching the guards that tried to subdue him at the gate. Once there, he confronted the Kung Fu Council and the Soothsayer, telling them that he was there to take back what was rightfully his. In the skirmish that followed, Shen easily outfought Masters Storming Ox and Croc, but was pushed back by Master Thundering Rhino, who shattered several of Shen's blades. However, Shen was ready for this, and unveiled his new weapon. Thundering Rhino was fearlessly prepared for battle, but he was no match for Shen's device, and was killed by the blast of the cannon. With Thundering Rhino fallen, Shen threatened to turn his cannon on the entire city unless Storming Ox and Croc surrendered, to which they agreed. He had the two masters imprisoned in Gongmen Jail and planted Thundering Rhino's Cloud Hammer in his courtyard as a trophy.
With the Council out of the way, Shen began to ransack the tower, even throwing his father's throne out the window and replacing it with his cannon. He then questioned the Soothsayer about his future, but she informed him that nothing had changed; he would still be defeated by "a warrior of black and white". Shen declared this to be impossible, but was quickly proven wrong when Boss Wolf returned, informing him that he had battled a panda whom, he commented, "fought like a demon". Shen, furious at this news yet determined to keep his cool, ordered Boss Wolf to bring the panda to him so he could kill him himself and prove the Soothsayer wrong.
Later, when the panda, Po, was brought before him alongside the Furious Five in handcuffs, Shen was taken aback by Po's casual behavior of not being intimidated by him or the situation. Shen soon realized that Po was unaware of the massacre of the pandas, and of Shen's role in it. He laughed and taunted him about his ignorance, and then ordered the Wolf Boss to fire the cannon at Po and the Five. However, Mantis quickly extinguished the fuse and knocked Boss Wolf out, which bought Viper enough time to pick the lock on Tigress' cuffs. Once they were free, the Five attacked, and Tigress and Mantis destroyed Shen's cannon. Po lunged at Shen but, upon seeing the marks on Shen's tail feathers, was struck with a memory of his past, and realized that Shen was there the night he lost his biological parents. Shen only confirmed this with satisfaction, and then used this distraction to escape to the Fireworks Factory, where he had several more cannons waiting. He ordered his warriors to open fire and bring the tower down with Po and the Five inside. Despite this, they managed to escape as the building fell. Frustrated, Shen ordered his troops to start loading his ships to begin his conquest of China, declaring the beginning of "the Year of the Peacock".
Some time later, the Soothsayer was brought before Shen, who gloated that the panda she had believed to be a powerful warrior was a fool. Ignoring the peacock's threats, Soothsayer told Shen that the path he had chosen would never bring satisfaction, and urged him to stop his plans. When she brought up his parents, Shen angrily stated that they had hated and wronged him. He was then momentarily struck speechless when Soothsayer revealed that his parents had in fact loved him so much, that they had died of grief after banishing him. Despite this revelation, Shen chose to continue with his plans, and had the Soothsayer released. Soothsayer sadly bade Shen farewell and left.
Soon after this, Po infiltrated the factory to confront Shen, unknowingly ruining the Five's plan to destroy the building by doing so. However, Shen had anticipated his arrival, and took the panda by surprise in the upper levels of the building. When Po demanded answers, Shen claimed that his parents had abandoned him before attacking. As the two fought, Shen easily outmaneuvered Po until cornered at the highest level of the factory. Unperturbed, Shen teased Po again, telling him that his parents had never loved him. This emotional attack again distracted Po, enough for Shen to reach his most powerful cannon, which he used to blast Po out of the factory and into the river.
Confident that Po was dead, Shen had the recaptured Furious Five chained up and suspended above his ships as they sailed out of the city, planning on executing them once his ships reached the harbor. He even callously blasted a bridge out of the way when Gongmen citizens came to watch. Much to his shock, Po returned to rescue his friends and to defeat Shen once and for all. Shen ordered his gunners to blast him, but Po nimbly moved along the rooftops, preventing them from getting a clear shot, and then jumped onto the ships to engage Shen's army, now that they couldn't fire without hitting their own men. Shen could do nothing but watch as Po freed the Furious Five and joined forces with Masters Storming Ox, Croc, and Shifu. Finally losing his patience, Shen ordered Boss Wolf to fire the main cannon, but the wolf refused to kill his own. In response, Shen struck him down with one of his throwing knives. He fired the cannon himself, knocking all of the Kung Fu warriors away and blasting through the boats they had set up to block his fleet.
As his ships entered the city harbor, Shen watched as Po swam out to one of the destroyed boats, and then stood to face Shen's forces alone. Unphased, Shen ordered his gunners to open fire and finish off the panda, to which Po began making tai chi motions. The first cannon was fired, and amazingly, Po used a technique Shifu had shown him to catch and deflect the cannonball. Though shocked at this, Shen would not relent, and ordered his men to continue firing. However, Po continued to deflect the cannonfire, and soon began sending the cannonballs back towards the boats and destroying them. Shen became increasingly enraged and ordered his men to fire from his own cannon. Po caught this larger cannonball, and as he began spinning on the spot with this ball, he briefly transformed into the Yin Yang symbol from the Soothsayer's vision, a sight which struck Shen speechless. Po redirected this last ball into Shen's own ship, destroying what remained of Shen's armada, though Shen survived the impact.
When Po confronted him on his main ship, Shen viewed the destruction around him, and asked Po how he did it, how he could find peace after he "scarred him for life". Po told Shen that it was time to let go of his past, stating that what mattered was who he chose to be in the present. Shen agreed, and declared his choice: by attacking Po with his lance and knives in one last vengeful attempt to kill the panda. Though Shen's swordplay overwhelmed Po, as they fought, Shen accidentally cut through the ropes holding the remains of his cannon. Shen realized this too late, and as the heavy weapon fell on him, he closed his eyes and accepted his fate, resulting in a great explosion that sunk the main ship to the waters, which Po barely managed to evade. Soon afterwards, fireworks were set off over Gongmen City, with the image of a peacock appearing in the morning sky.
Though Shen does not actually appear in the series, his defeat was briefly mentioned by a villager.
- “Happiness... must be taken. And I will take mine.”
- —Shen's resolve, Kung Fu Panda 2
Shen is shown to have been extremely smart, ambitious, and supremely lethal. His past forged in him the notion that he had been wronged, and that the world owed him something, and he sought to do everything in his power to take it. This included inventing a powerful weapon unlike anyone had ever seen before. Shen was intent on using this weapon to wipe out Kung Fu and take over China.
Shen was shown to be unspeakably ruthless, willing to kill China's population of pandas in order to smite any chances that one would some day defeat him, as described in a fortune-telling he overheard. Raised as royalty, Shen largely preferred to let his cannons and henchmen do the labor and dirty work rather than dealing with such obstacles himself. His ambition to leave his mark on the world drove him to find a dark and lethal potential in his family's celebrated invention of fireworks, and when cast out by his parents for his massacre of the pandas, he swore revenge, and aimed to conquer all of China to prove himself. Shen had little or no regard for the life or well-being of others, as he blasted a bridge without hesitation, despite there being innocent bystanders on it, and was willing to sacrifice his own troops, which put him in conflict with his most trusted subordinate Boss Wolf. The wolf refused to kill his own warriors, and for this disobedience, Shen killed him without a second thought.
Shen was also a perfectionist which was shown when he took over the Tower of the Sacred Flame and fussed over the position of his cannon, saying that he envisioned the moment he would retake Gongmen City for years, and that everything had to be exactly as he envisioned it, and when he was rehearsing intimidating lines for his confrontation with his destined foe (which went to waste due to Po's offhanded nature). He also demonstrated a fondness of expensive materials and luxury, as shown when he became infuriated when the Soothsayer chewed off the hem of his robes, which he claimed to be made of "the finest silk in the province".
Shen was also shown to have a rather short temper. When Po and the Furious Five escaped from the collapsing Tower of the Sacred Flame, he became enraged and kicked one of his gorilla followers in the nose. Additionally, when he ordered Boss Wolf to gather the wolves shortly after the incident, he screamed at him repetitively to do the task even after the wolf hurried away to do so.
Shen also seemed to have a low tolerance for pain (despite being a seasoned master of Kung Fu and swordsmanship), such as when Soothsayer plucked out one of his smallest down feathers. He yelped loudly and pulled his wing back, acting as if he were badly injured.
Prideful and possibly deranged, Shen seemed to carry no remorse for his crimes, and would often boast of his accomplishments. He was also shown to be sadistic. When confronting the Kung Fu Council he gleefully stated that his cannon would literally part them saying "part of you here, part of you there, part of you way over there staining the wall!" showing he was rather murderous. He also took pleasure in telling Po that his parents didn't love him and taking advantage of the panda's pain. This cruelty likely stemmed from Shen's conviction that his own parents hated him, forged in his mind when they banished him years ago. Shen's bitterness of his parents went as far as insulting his father's memory by throwing his throne out the window and replacing it with his cannon, after commenting that he had fond memories of playing near it as a child.
The Soothsayer, however, opposed his plans. She tried to reason with Shen to change his ways, and, even while being his prisoner, displayed her concern for the reckless decisions he made. Despite her occasional mockery of him, as well as Shen threatening and insulting her several times while she was his prisoner, the Soothsayer was possibly the only person he cared about, as he never harmed her, and ultimately set her free.
Perhaps what Shen wished for the most was to have his parent's love and approval. Shen felt betrayed by them even after their deaths, and stuck to his conviction that conquering China with his weapons and his brutal force would be the only thing that would bring him the justice he felt was his. Though he continued to believe that his parents had hated him, the Soothsayer related to him that his parents had loved him, so much that they died of grief after they had to banish him. Although he paused in thoughtful silence upon hearing this, taking a few breaths, Shen hardened his heart and proceeded with his conquest. He also didn't care about tradition and ancestry, as he ordered his minions to bring down the Tower of the Sacred Flame despite the fact that it had been his family's ancestral home for many years.
Shen chose never to accept failure, seen when he furiously struck one of his followers for failing to kill Po and the Five when they escaped the Tower, stating that "nothing stands in my way." After Po defeated Shen's "unstoppable" weapons, Shen tried his best to kill the Panda and almost succeeded but accidentally sealed his own fate by slicing through the ropes that held up his cannon. At the very end of his life, Shen finally accepted that he had been beaten and did not attempt to save himself when his own cannon crushed him.
Shen's Kung Fu skills were so advanced that he could hold his own against both Storming Ox and Croc, who were both revered and full-fledged Kung Fu masters. Shen was also able to counter each and every one of their moves flawlessly and with lethal precision, hinting that he could've killed them whenever he chose. However, he was quickly defeated by Thundering Rhino who deflected all of his blades with his hammer and in one case his horn and then jabbed him with his hammer with enough force to cause Shen to drop his weapons.
Shen also excelled in sword and lance combat and hid an armory of blades in his robes, which he could unleash with lightning speed and deadly precision. Among the rest of his arsenal was his lance (which he was seen practicing with the most), and a pair of lethal-looking metal talons. In battle, his tail became another limb, which he could shape and use to attack, defend, or as a deception tool. His "Funnel Cloud Attack" and "Feather Attack" were noted to be daunting and deadly. All in all, Shen's fighting style was both graceful and lethal. When enraged, however, Shen was more reckless, as shown by his ferocious assault on Po which caused him to not realize that he was severing the ropes that held up his cannon, which ultimately crushed him.
When Shen engaged someone in close combat, not one move he made was wasted. He made full and efficient use of every technique, weapon, and tactic he had at his disposal, utilizing not only his bladed weapons, but also his tail and talons. As shown in his fight with Masters Storming Ox and Croc, he used his sword to pin Ox's weapons while using a sidekick on Croc, and then immediately turning that side-kick into a roundhouse-kick to knock Ox down. His tail was used to defend and distract his foes, and even mask his own movements. One example shows in how he had come very close to killing Croc when he used his tail in a series of moves: first, he defended with his tail; then he attempted to stab Croc with his sword (which he barely managed to dodge); and then he finally finished it with a butterfly kick on Croc's head. Shen also seemed to favor spinning or sweeping maneuvers, as well as pinning someone's weapons or limbs, and was also capable of using his tail to sweep foes off their feet, as he had done so in his first fight with Po where he grabbed Po's foot, stopping a kick, before he pinned it down, maneuvered around Po, and he swept the panda off balance with his long tail feathers.
Shen was a master of blades with lethal skill in swordsmanship and knife-throwing. Among his arsenal were:
- Guan dao — A curved blade with extending shaft resembling a European flamberge, allowing Shen to use it as either a sword or lance.
- Throwing knives — Uniquely-shaped knives which Shen hid among the sleeves in his robes; these were most likely custom-built, as they appear to be forged into the shape of feathers, likely so Shen could hide them among his own feathers in the folds of his robe.
- Iron claws — A metal attachment to his talons; used for armor, combat, and as means to create sparks and light the fuses on cannons.
- Rope darts — Seen in use only once, when Shen throws the rope with accuracy to ensnare Storming Ox's horn to bring him down.
Shen was loved by his parents from the moment he was born, and he mentioned he would often play by his father's throne, which his father promised would one day be his, implying his parents were encouraging and loving. But as Shen grew older, ambition began to fester in his heart as he obsessed over the destructive potential of his family's invention of fireworks, worrying his parents. They turned to the advice of their court Soothsayer and Shen's nanny, who prophesied for Shen a path to self-destruction should he continue his dark pursuits, and be defeated by a warrior of black and white.
Shen attempted to thwart this prophecy by massacring a village of pandas, and he returned, full of pride, expecting his parents to praise him for defying fate, yet he saw only horror on their faces. Left with no choice, Shen's parents banished the young lord forever from Gongmen City, and all love Shen felt for his parents was replaced with the belief that he was wronged by them. For thirty years, Shen desired to take back his throne and to conquer China. Ever-feeling that his parents hated him, his bitterness went as far as to insult his father's memory by throwing his throne out the window. However, it was revealed through the Soothsayer that Shen's parents loved him so much that it was the pain of banishing their son that caused their deaths. Shen was stricken silent in response to this, but didn't dispute the matter any further, hardening his heart and proceeding with his plan.
The Soothsayer was Shen's nanny when he was young, though as an adult Shen seems mostly infuriated and annoyed with her riddles and jokes, as well as her insolent behavior around him, such as when she nonchalantly plucked out one of his wing feathers, and when she chewed and bit off the hem of his robes. However, while Shen did insult and threaten her on some occasions, he tolerated her and never harmed her. She was perhaps the only one person Shen ever cared for or showed mercy to, as he released her from Gongmen City after declaring she was no longer useful to him.
- “Search the farthest villages. Find more metal! China will be mine...”
Boss Wolf was Shen's most loyal and trusted subordinate. He displayed much confidence in Boss Wolf's abilities and competence, and Boss Wolf displayed in return great loyalty, as well as some fear, of his master. However, Shen wasn't above reprimanding Boss Wolf in certain occasions, and showed that, while he valued Boss Wolf as his second-in-command, he cared nothing for him. This was shown when Shen ordered Boss Wolf to fire the cannon at their enemies, to which Boss Wolf hesitated, since their troops would be caught in the blast as well. Boss Wolf finally disobeyed his master for possibly the first time, seeing Shen for what he really was, and was quickly killed for doing so as Shen promptly struck him down with his throwing knives. Shen displayed no remorse for killing his most trusted subordinate and simply aimed to win the battle.
His wolf army
- Shen: “Fire! Fire at them!”
- Boss Wolf: “But sir, we'll kill our own!”
Shen acted very strict towards his followers, ordering them to do his bidding at any means necessary, including his willingness to sacrifice several lives to suit his purpose, as seen when he ordered Boss Wolf to fire in range of his own legion of warriors. He also showed frustration with any shred of incompetence, and would lash out at them.
- “How many times do I have to kill the same stinking panda?!”
Prior to when they met, Shen thought Po was fully aware of his part in killing his parents, and was also a fully-seasoned Kung Fu master; however, upon meeting Po and realizing that the panda had no notion of what happened to his family or the other pandas, Shen found himself unable to keep a straight face. Shen continued to underestimate Po, up until the panda managed to take down his entire fleet single-handedly, leaving Shen exhausted and stunned at the outcome. Po approached Shen, knowing of the peacock's past, and told him that he had to let go of the past and focus on the now. Shen refused to do so, and violently attacked Po with his blades in the attempt to finish him, but he accidentally sliced the ropes that held up the remains of his cannon, making it come crashing down on top of Shen, who closed his eyes and remained where he was as it fell, and crushed him.
The Furious Five
Shen likely saw the Furious Five as mere enemies to be thwarted as they were famous masters of Kung Fu, which he hoped to vanquish. After defeating them and having them tied up, Shen mocked them with the promise that they would become part of something "beautiful", and had them shown on display as a sign of his dominance while he invaded Gongmen City with his army and cannon.
The Kung Fu Council
ClothingIn keeping with his state as a white peacock, Shen wore a long, white robe with a black belt. Shen once commented in Kung Fu Panda 2 that his robes were made from the finest silk in the province. Underneath his robe is where he kept his guan dao and a large supply of throwing knives. To hide the burn scars on his feet, Shen also wore metal talons that protected his feet and served as formidable weapons. At the back of his robe, there is a sewed peacock shape at the sewn circle.
- The name "Shen" translates into English as "divinity" (traditional and simplified Chinese: 神?; pinyin: shén), "flame" (traditional and simplified Chinese: 焴; pinyin: shen), and "deep thought" (traditional and simplified Chinese: 深; pinyin: shēn).
- Though Shen has been described as an albino, in reality white peafowl are leucistic, as their eyes still contain pigment. In addition, his head and tail feathers also have color, which albino animals do not possess.
- Shen being born white is intentionally symbolic for his character as a villain, as white symbolizes death in Chinese culture.
- Shen's fighting style shares similar qualities with "Cai Li Fo", a Chinese martial art that uses a metal fan for defensive and distraction purposes. These qualities are represented in Kung Fu Panda 2 by the use of Shen's tail feathers, as well as his agile and circular movements.
- Whenever Po saw Shen's "eyespots" on his tail, it brought up traumatic experiences and would temporarily daze him, giving Shen the upper hand in their confrontations. In the wild, peacocks use eyespots to protect themselves from predators as a psychological defense.[source?]
- When Shen takes off in flight, his tail opens up completely. In reality, peacocks cannot open their tails during flight, because of their heavy support.[source?]
- Shen was originally created as a devious mayor for the first film, but was written out before production.
- According to the director, Shen proved to be a great challenge to animate, so much that the complexity of the character was like that of doing six characters all at once.
- An earlier concept of Shen's background mentioned him being born "sickly" due to his leucism/albinism. His parents were disappointed and had deemed him "too weak and pitiful to deserve attention". The Soothsayer was also mentioned to be Shen's nanny, but the ignorance his own family showed him was what drove the young peacock into his path of wickedness.
- During production, Shen was going to have a gibbon assassin designed to be his "sidekick and henchwoman" who was tasked to poison Po at a dinner party. This character was eventually scrapped.[source?]
- Modeling supervisor Jason Turner has noted that Shen's tail has "four layers of feathers . . . each layer has fourteen to twenty-three feathers on it, for a total of seventy[,] and each feather is made of a shaft with two barbs alongside of it."
In popular culture
- Shen was parodied in an episode of MAD, in which Po had to defeat him and his new army: the Angry Birds.