Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now in theaters, kicking off another franchise in Marvel’s vast Cinematic Universe.
With plenty of martial arts action and deep respect for Chinese mythology and culture, the film features the titular hero, Shang-Chi, on a journey of self-discovery as he escapes the influence of his father, the powerful Wenwu.
Xialing, Shang-Chi’s sister, won fans instant admiration among all the characters introduced in the new film. She also has a complicated history with her father. She was looked down upon and left aside just because she was a woman. Xialing is played by Meng’er Zhang in her cinematic debut.
Curious about the character? Here are some things you need to know about Xialing!
Who is Xialing in Shang Chi’s Film?
Xialing and Shang-Chi are the children of Wenwu, the leader of the Ten Rings criminal organization, and Ying Li, a woman from the mythological dimension of Ta-Lo – a magical realm inhabited by mythical creatures.
After the death of his mother, Shang-Chi was transformed by his father into a living weapon so that he could take his place when the time came and then lead the Ten Rings.
Xialing, on the other hand, was always left aside. She was not allowed to join the training sessions. She was always ignored by her father, although being as capable of fighting as her brother.
Years later, Shang-Chi and Xialing meet again when Wenwu returns to seek them out and make his way to Ta-Lo, where he believes his wife is being held hostage.
Xialing then shows his courage and also turns against his father, assisting in Shang-Chi’s escape. They manage to get into Ta-Lo in time to warn the locals of Wenwu’s arrival, and eventually, she joins the fight, supporting her brother.
In addition, she also runs the Golden Daggers Club, a fighting ring in Macau where people can fight and earn some money.
The character was played by Meng’er Zhang, and this is the actress’ first film role, although she has been active in theater since 2013.
The actress probably has a promising future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, considering what we see in the last post-credits scene of the film. However, it remains to be seen whether she will remain an ally of Shang-Chi or not.
Who is Xialing in Marvel Comics?
Those searching for Xialing in the comics may be surprised, as the character does not exist. Instead, she is an original creation of the movies and part of Marvel’s own initiative to reshape Shang-Chi since the original comics suffer from some issues concerning the Chinese culture representation.
For starters, Shang-Chi’s father in the comics is Zheng Zu, the villain known as Fu Manchu, one of the most offensive caricatures of Chinese culture, not only within Marvel Comics. Fu Manchu married Jiang Li, with whom he had Shang-Chi and one more daughter, Zheng Shi-Hua, besides having several sons and daughters with other concubines and wives.
Zheng Shi-Hua was raised with Shang-Chi, and the two had a friendly relationship until the day they broke into her father’s laboratory without his permission.
As punishment, Zheng Zu branded his daughter’s forehead with red-hot iron and sent her to Russia, where she was trained in martial arts. Years later, she was reunited with her brother but was always compared to him by her father, leading to an unstable rivalry.
Eventually, Zheng Shi-Hua broke free from her family’s bonds and became a great villain, forming an army to destroy the western world.
Shang-Chi was in charge of confronting her, even though he didn’t want to hurt his sister. He saves her from a clear shot in a recent comic, but she runs away, and their relationship remains unclear. Yet, she seems to be of great importance in the hero’s future stories.
Shang-Chi’s Other Sisters
Shang-Chi has 5 sisters. Besides Shi-Hua, Shang-Chi has several half-sisters in the comics due to Zheng Zu’s relationships with other women. Therefore, these characters have very different histories from each other.
I believe Xialing of the movies is a combination of Shi-Hua and some of them. We can mention Zheng Zhilan, Kwai Far, Zheng Bao Yu, and Esme among his half-sisters. Here I give a brief overview of all of them:
Zheng Zhilan: Born in London, she is a mutant who can transform music into solidified energy. She became an ally of Shang-Chi and even turned down Wolverine’s invitation to go to Krakoa so that she could help her brother rebuild the Five Weapons Society, created to protect China.
Zheng Bao Yu: Like her father, Zheng Bao Yu became a major criminal, using the alter-ego of Fah Lo Suee – or Cursed Lotus. She confronted Shang-Chi on several occasions and even attacked her brother until she nearly killed him. Then, for a brief period, she redeemed herself and became an MI6 agent but returned to a life of crime. The image above depicts the character.
Kwai Far: She is the daughter of Zheng Zu with a woman from Wakanda whose name was never revealed. She was in love with Black Panther, but the character has not returned in the comics for years.
Esme: One of the many daughters of Zheng Zu, Esme was born in France and was trained from an early age in daggers. She initially disliked Shang-Chi, but eventually gave in to the hero and accepted the invitation to join the Five Weapons Society.
Shang-Chi and Xialing
In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Xialing seems to incorporate elements of several of these characters – and this helps to simplify the film’s story and work in a more focused way on the protagonist’s familial relationship. In comparison, Xialing doesn’t have much to do with Kwai Far. The latter is deeply connected to Wakanda. However, the others share several interesting traits.
Shi-Hua seems to be the primary foundation, considering that she is Shang-Chi’s blood sister, father, and mother. In addition, she nurtures certain jealousy of her brother, which is justified by the atrocities her father committed when she was a minor. In addition, she also seems to be well connected to “carrying on her father’s business,” which is somewhat present in the film.
Bao Yu can be an inspiration because of his lethal attitude and his rivalry with Shang-Chi developed. But, on the other hand, the more “friendly” and loyal relationship comes from Esme and Zheng Zhilan, who also help Shang-Chi rebuild what his father destroyed. And although Wenwu is a very different character from Zheng Zu, this is quite obvious in the film.
In any case, Xialing is here to stay. In the film, she proves her worth, even beating Shang-Chi in combat and saving him from various situations. Although she has no “powers,” she is a born fighter, potent and effective, and masterfully uses a weapon similar to a kyoketsu-shoge – a rope with a blade on end.