- “Number one in his class, extensive knowledge of training techniques... an impressive military linuage... I believe Li Shang will do an excellent job.”
- ―General Li rationalizing his decision to grant Shang position as captain
Shang is the son of General Li, the head of the Chinese army. During his appointment in the first movie, he is a highly capable leader with a dedication to his cause. It is mentioned that he was first in his class in regards to military affairs and was knowledgeable in training tactics. He is often disparagingly called a 'Pretty Boy' due to his dashing good looks and strong physique.
With the weight of China's safety within his hands, Shang was a powerful, no-nonsense force during his time as the general of his division. When dealing with his soldiers, as well as his supervisor, Chi-Fu, he relied on verbal and physical force to get his messages across, with his training methods evidentially being brutal and exhausting, though effective in the grand scheme of things, showing an efficient leader behind the harsh exterior.
A major theme in the film involves gender stereotypes, both male and female. This is relevant in Shang's case as, through his song, "I'll Make a Man Out of You", as well as his treatment towards Mulan following the events of her reveal, he is shown to be internally sexist, having been brought into a society where women are looked down upon, while men and exaggerated masculinity was ideal. Nevertheless, Shang is capable of having his viewpoints changed, as Mulan's undebatable bravery and capability was enough to prove gender is no matter in terms of heroism deserving of praise, being one of the first individuals to take up for the latter after her sheer wit led to the defeat of feared hun Shan Yu.
Also, despite his skill at military affairs, he seems to be somewhat lacking in social skills, as he has trouble telling Mulan about his romantic feelings for her, or even properly congratulating her following her success in saving China, coyly using the grammatically incorrect "You fight good." statement to do so. This is further explored in the sequel, where he is shown to be a polar opposite of Mulan, as the former is quick to discard his true feelings and emotions for the sake of missions and assignments, whereas Mulan follows the mantra of "one's duty is to one's heart". Nevertheless, both sides of the coin can be consequential, allowing both Shang and Mulan, when joined together, to balance one another out, establishing a healthy relationship both professionally and romantically.
- Above average strength: When he was training the recruits to fight the Huns, where he had his men train carrying weights, he picked up "Ping"'s weight and carried it in addition to his own without being affected by it, even though his men struggled to carry one weight. He has also shown able to fight the mighty Shan Yu unarmed as the Hun leader found it difficult to subdue him.
- High Pain Tolerance/ Lack of Sense of Pain: He pulled an arrow out of his shoulder with no expression, had a statue possibly crush his fingers, and took multiple beatings without a care.
Shortly after his initial introduction in the film, Shang is appointed as an army captain by his father General Li. The appointment comes at the protest of Chi-Fu, who claims that Shang is too young for such responsibility. General Li defends the choice, noting Shang's numerous accomplishments as well as his impressive military lineage. As a slight compromise, Shang is ordered to train the new recruits, and then, pending Chi-Fu's approval, joins the main army in the Tung Shao Pass. Shang is initially excited at the prospect but is slightly disappointed when the new recruits are shown to be lacking in skill. After hard training, however, he is able to turn them into respectable soldiers. Shang then goes to Chi-Fu, who refuses to grant his approval, despite Shang's protests. Chi-Fu disparages both the soldiers and Shang, hinting that he believes Shang only became captain because of his father. Chu-Fu then threatens that Shang's troops will never see battle after the General reads his report.
A letter later comes for Shang (supposedly from the General, but actually faked by Mushu) asking him to take his troops to the front. Coming to a village in the mountain pass, they discover that the village had been razed by the Huns. While searching for potential survivors, Shang learns that the entire army (including his father) perished in the battle. Shang takes a moment to mourn, making a small shrine to his father, before taking his soldiers in pursuit of the Huns, who are headed toward the Imperial City. They soon meet the Hun army after Mushu accidentally fired a cannon causing his position given away to Shan Yu and the Huns, only to learn that they are hopelessly outnumbered. Shang prepares for a last stand. However, a soldier named Ping (who is actually Mulan in disguise) is able to stop the Hun army by causing an avalanche. Shang is caught in the avalanche but is saved by Ping.
In the aftermath, Shang thanks, Ping and accepts "him" as a trusted friend. However, while Ping is receiving treatment, it is discovered that "he" is a woman named Mulan. Though the law states that a woman who is discovered in the army is to be killed, Shang spares her due to the debt he owes her for saving him. Shang then leaves Mulan and leads his army to the Imperial City. Chi-Fu attempts to beg him to execute her but he angrily refuses as she had saved his life; he repays his debt of gratitude.
At the Imperial City, Shang and his troops are to be honored for defeating the Huns. However, he is seen to be downcast due to Mulan. Mulan suddenly arrives in the city, claiming that the Huns are alive. Shang refuses to believe her, as she had lied about her identity, but her claims are soon found to be true. As Shang is being honored by the Emperor, Shan Yu and several Huns kidnap the Emperor and lock themselves in the palace. Shang attempts to lead a rescue mission but initially, fails. Mulan takes charge and along with Yao, Ling and Chien Po are able to climb up pillars onto an upper floor. While Mulan and the trio distract the Hun guards, Shang rushes to a balcony and fights Shan Yu. The trio is able to take the Emperor to safety, but when Shang is about to be killed, Mulan chooses to forgo her own safety to assist him.
After Shan Yu is killed, Shang is seen running outside of the palace, where Mulan falls on him. He later defends Mulan as a hero when Chi Fu begins scolding her. Shang is among the first to bow to Mulan when the Emperor honors her as the hero of China. As Mulan prepares to go home, Shang attempts to tell her how she feels but ends up stuttering out a reference to her fighting talents. Shang is shown to be disappointed in his failure, but after being counseled by the Emperor, he chooses to travel to Mulan's home to see her. He speaks to her, somewhat nervously, under the guise that he was returning her (technically her father's) helmet, which she had left behind. As Mulan's father, Fa Zhou realizes what Shang is trying to say, he motions to Mulan, who then invites Shang to dinner that night, which he greatly accepts.
One month later, in Mulan II , the film begins with him proposing to Mulan, to which she gladly agrees. During a meeting with the Emperor, he is promoted from captain to general. Shang and Mulan are directed by the emperor to escort his three daughters to a neighboring kingdom in hopes that an arranged marriage between them and the three princes of the opposing nation will form an alliance against the Mongols, who are threatening to attack the northern border of China.
He and Mulan go through many conflicts around their romantic relationship, which is mostly instigated by Mushu. Midway through the film, he and the group are attacked. Shang and Mulan are left dangling from a bridge. Since the bridge cannot support both of them, Shang lets go to save Mulan. When the Princesses reveal that they don't want to go through with the marriage, Mulan offers to take their place, as Shang is presumably dead. At the end of the film, however, it is revealed he somehow survived the fall (with help from his horse), and Mushu saves the day by pretending to be the Golden Dragon of Unity and freeing the princesses from their vows. Mushu (still posing as the Golden Dragon) marries Shang and Mulan, using that as the marriage to bring peace and harmony between the two neighboring kingdoms of China. Mulan later tells Shang about Mushu and Shang makes the choice to combine both families' temples so that Mushu can remain a family guardian and Mulan's most trusted confidant.
He doesn't appear in the first two games but makes an appearance in the third game as captain of the Chinese army to protect The Land of Dragons from falling into the hands of Shan Yu.
He initially disliked Ping (who is Mulan in disguise) because of "his" vast shortcomings in terms of fighting but learned to trust "him" after "he" caused a mountain of snow to fall down on Shan Yu and his army. However, Mushu accidentally lets the truth slip and Shang realizes that Ping is actually Fa Mulan. Though she was supposed to be sentenced to death, he spared her life.
When it turns out that Shan Yu is alive and heading for the Imperial City, Mulan tries to warn him, but he refuses to listen until he sees the truth for himself. He then rescues the Emperor and thanks, Mulan, Sora, Donald and Goofy for their help in protecting their country and ultimately defeating Shan Yu.
Upon Sora's second visit, a black hooded man (who is actually Riku) had visited the Emperor and easily defeated the Captain. After Mulan, Sora, Donald and Goofy defeat the Storm Rider Heartless, Mulan becomes Shang's partner in protecting their world and their Emperor, much to their pleasure.
During the end credits, Shang is seen sharing a romantic moment with Mulan, until the three soldiers, Chien Po, Yao, and Ling reveal themselves when they are spying on them, but ruining it. Mulan is amused, but Shang is outraged and chases them, which amuses Mulan all the more.
Captain Li Shang makes occasional appearances at the Disney theme parks around the world, making very rare meetable appearances. Shang appeared in the castle show Disney in the Stars at Hong Kong Disneyland. Mulan and Shang appear in the stage show The Golden Mickeys (Disney Cruise Line).
- Li Shang's act of turning the entire camp against Mulan is actually a common technique used by sergeants during training - trouble-makers will not be singled out by the sergeant, which would result in earning them sympathy, but instead, earn all recruits a punishment.
- Li's act of singling Yao out with the retrieval of the arrow is also a technique used in training - smart-mouths will be singled out for humiliation, not only to show that they are wrong but also to show they are a risky person to agree with or be friends with.
- Li Shang is possibly ambidextrous. He tends to do a lot with the left hand as well as right.
- His name in the Mandarin version is Xiang (to soar) which is pronounced still as Shang but the "ang" sounds like "ong" indirect Chinese. General Li pronounces it like this once.
- According to the audio commentary on the special edition Mulan DVD, Li Shang was considered a dorky guy despite being physically fit due to his inability to talk to Mulan. An example of this would be after she defeats Shan Yu he says "You fight good" in a nervous way.
- Although he is great at kung-fu, he is a clumsy dancer as seen in a comic, and appears to be somewhat clumsy in the second movie, much like Mulan herself, initially.
- He appears to be a speed reader in the second movie.
- If he is "number one in his class" it's possible he has the "Jinshi" title.
- His half of the yin and yang necklace is the yin side, associated with femininity.
- In the second movie his answers to people's questions about the upcoming wedding and family plans are the exact opposite of Mulan's. In the second film he states that he would NOT like a big wedding, as many children as possible, and mild food. He also responds to other questions with "we'll have to think about it, yes, and blue."