SHOU-LAO, the UNDYING

Real Name: Shou-Lao

Identity/Class: Extradimensional (K'un-Lun) magically-altered dragon

Occupation: Former guardian of his own heart;
    previous career unknown

Group Membership: Dragons of K'un-Lun, Dragon-Lords

Affiliations: Iron Fists (Bei Ming-Tian, Wu Ao-Shi, Bei Bang-Wen, Orson Randall, Daniel Rand, 61 others)
    formerly Master Khan, unidentified Y-Ti

EnemiesChiantang, Davos (Steel Serpent), Wendell Rand'Kai , Quan-St'ar, Daniel Rand (Iron Fist), Tuan, Y-Ti (son of Tuan), an unknown number of past warriors and outworlders

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: The Dragon who Sleeps Outside the City, the Dragon-Lord;
    Shao Lao, Shao-Lou, Shou Lao

Base of Operations: Formerly a cavern outside the city of K'un-Lun

First Appearance: Marvel Premiere#16 (July, 1974)

 

 

 

Powers/Abilities: Shou-Lao is a 25' long horned serpentine dragon. He is fast and strong with razor sharp teeth, and he can breathe fire. He is immune to the effects of disease and aging and is otherwise virtually invulnerable. His heart has been removed from his body and exists in molten form within a brazier and it transmitted power to his body via the dragon-shaped scar from which it had been removed. The only way he could die was if his scar, which generated searing heat, was covered long enough to deprive him of its life-giving energies.

    Shou-Lao can apparently change colors, at least red, green, and golden.

History:
(Power Man and Iron Fist#119 (fb) - BTS / Black Panther III#40 (fb) - BTS) - Many centuries ago, the young dragon Shou-Lao married the daughter of the Dragon King against her father's wishes. He shamed her, leaving her penniless and homeless.

(Power Man and Iron Fist#119 (fb)) - When Chiantang (brother of the Dragon King) learned of his niece's fate, he ignored his brother's belief that violence was not the way, and he transformed into dragon form, swam to the surface, and assaulted K'un-Lun, where Shou-Lao had taken refuge.

 

 

 

(Power Man and Iron Fist#119 (fb) - BTS / Black Panther III#40 (fb) - BTS) - Locating Shou-Lao himself, Chiantang borrowed a favor from a god, and changed the dragon into a lowly fire-breathing serpent. Chiantang then ripped out Shou-Lao's heart and placed it, alive and throbbing, into a brazier of boiling blood within a cave, where he wanted it to beat until the end of time. Chiantang imprisoned Shou-Lao nearby, intending his victim to writhe in shame and agony forever and become known as Shou-Lao the Undying.
    Master Khan was furious with Chiantang for leveling K'un-Lun, but he was amused with the punishment of Shou-Lao, so he let him off with a warning not to assault K'un-Lun again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Master of Kung Fu Annual#1 (fb)) - Quan-St'ar, one of the favored of Y-Ti, often stood by his side while they were entertained by an exhibition of skill, staged by the Dragon Riders of K'un-Lun. One day one of the Dragons went berserk and attacked Y-Ti. With loyalty and courage, Quan-St'ar leaped forth to defend the exalted Y-Ti. It was a long and vicious battle. Quan-St'ar nearly lost his life three times to the dragon. But finally, he slew the beast--and when he had cut out its heart--he presented it to Y-Ti, whose life he had just saved, as a token of his loyalty. Quan-St'ar was shocked beyond belief when Y-Ti chastised, reviled, and banished him forever from K'un-Lun. Quan-St'ar protested, insisting that he had saved Y-Ti's life, but Y-Ti said that fact was irrelevant. All that mattered was that a sacred dragon had been slain--and that Quan-St'ar had slain it. For this unforgivable crime, Quan-St'ar must be banished (see comments).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Marvel Premiere#16 (fb) / Master of Kung Fu Annual#1 (fb)) - Y-Ti placed the Dragon-Lord's heart in a sacred cave, and by making the heart molten, he restored life to the dragon and charged it with the duty of guarding its own heart. The molten heart was kept within a brazier, and it bubbled and pulsed with the life, the beating soul of the dragon--the Heart of the Dragon. Over the dragon's breast was the scar that his heart had been taken. Through this scar the dragon received the mystic emanations that eternally sustained him (see comments).

(Power Man and Iron Fist#75 (fb) - BTS) - Legends told that the dragon couldn't be killed, earning it the title Shou-Lou, the Undying.

(Immortal Iron Fist#5 (fb) - BTS) - The Book of the Iron Fists was written on parchment made from the scales of Shou-Lao, containing the history of each Iron Fist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Power Man and Iron Fist#75 (fb) - BTS) - For generations, young warriors (including both outworlders and brash warriors of K'un-Lun) marched off, hoping to win the Iron Fist and, as planned, they all fell to Shou-Lao, serving as blood sacrifices (and thus power) to Master Khan, who regarded Shou-Lao as the mightiest of his creatures. The Heart of the Dragon was the focus of Master Khan's power upon K'un-Lun.

(Iron Fist II#1 (fb)) - An unspecified number of warriors successfully faced Shou-Lao and earned the title and power of Iron Fist.

(Power Man and Iron Fist#75 (fb) - BTS) - Before Daniel Rand, thousands had died trying to win the power of the Iron Fist.

(Immortal Iron Fist#1 (fb) - BTS) - Approximately 1227 AD, Bei Ming-Tian faced Shou-Lao and claimed the power from his heart, becoming Iron Fist.

(Immortal Iron Fist#2 (fb) - BTS) - Approximately 1545 AD, Wu Ao-Shi faced Shou-Lao and claimed the power from his heart, becoming Iron Fist.

(Immortal Iron Fist#1 (fb) - BTS) - Approximately 1860 AD, Bei Bang-Wen faced Shou-Lao and claimed the power from his heart, becoming Iron Fist.

(Immortal Iron Fist#4 (fb)) <1915 or earlier> - At age 17, Orson Randall faced Shou-Lao and claimed the power from his heart, becoming Iron Fist.

(Power Man and Iron Fist#75 (fb)) (Over forty years ago> - Lord Tuan and his son Nu-An were wandering outside the city of K'un-Lun when they encountered Shou-Lao. They prepared to meet their deaths, but Wendell Rand, who had just crossed the barrier from Earth, used a rifle against the dragon, causing it to retreat to its lair, more irritated than hurt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Immortal Iron Fist#10 (fb) - BTS) - Wendell and Davos watched an older class of fighters' competition and saw one man earn the challenge of facing Shou-Lao. The dragon tore him to peaces. Both Davos and Wendell then realized it was possible they could lose.

(Marvel Team-Up I#64 (fb)) <Over thirty years ago> - A year later, Wendell Rand'Kai faced Davos for the right to face Shou-Lao and earn the title of Iron Fist. Tuan, who was then Y-Ti, the August Personage in Jade, called an end to a battle between Wendell and Davos, as Davos was clearly defeated, though he refused to yield. Y-Ti pronounced Wendell the victor and announced his right to face Shou-Lao, but Davos refused to accept this.

(Immortal Iron Fist#11 (fb) / Marvel Team-Up I#64 (fb)) - Furious at what he saw as a betrayal from his friend, his father, and his ruler, that night Davos trekked towards Shou-Lao's cavern, challenging the dragon, who soon appeared.

(Immortal Iron Fist#11 (fb)) - Awed by the dragon's presence, Davos felt doubt, realizing this was not a fight he should be fighting.

(Immortal Iron Fist#11 (fb) / Marvel Team-Up I#64 (fb)) - Shou-Lao drew first blood, marking Davos with a scar over his left eye, but Davos knew the dragon's secret. He used his body to block the power from Shou-Lao's heart, but he couldn't hold on long enough--the pain was too great.

(Immortal Iron Fist#11 (fb)) - Davos told Shou-Lou to take his life and be done with it.

(Immortal Iron Fist#11 (fb) / Marvel Team-Up I#64 (fb)) - The dragon looked at him a moment, contempt in its great, golden eyes, and then it was gone, not finding him worthy of killing.

(Immortal Iron Fist#12 (fb)) - Meditating on his mission to face Shou-Lao, Wendell was anointed by the priests, encouraged by Y-Ti, Nu-An, Lei Kung, and the others, and sent out to face his destiny. Despite his skill and training, Wendell felt fear, recalling Orson's words that he would never be Iron Fist, and that if he tried, he would die. As he approached Shou-Lao's chambers, he felt the Earth tremble.

(Marvel Team-Up I#64 (fb) - BTS) - Wendell did not challenge Shou-Lao, but he instead waited for the portal to Earth to open, and he left K'un-Lun. Davos passed through the portal as well, banished to Earth till the end of time for his sacrilege.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Marvel Premiere#16 (fb)) - Seeking to become as powerful as he could in order to gain vengeance on Harold Meachum, Daniel accepted Y-Ti (the son of Tuan) 's offer to risk his life to gain the power of the Iron Fist. Following Y-Ti's instructions, Rand traveled to the towering cliff beyond the eternal city--shouting an angry challenge at a pair of ornately carved doors set into the mountain's face: "Ho, archaic one--I, Daniel Rand, have come to take that which only you may own!" The challenge was quickly answered by the one who dwelt behind the doors--the fire-belching serpent-thing Shou-Lao.
    The great horned beast attacked and Daniel fought back, striking it with all of his power, but eventually Daniel had to wonder how he could defeat something that cannot be killed. Rand finally gambled/prayed and hurled himself against the strangely shaped scar upon the Dragon-Lord's breast. The heat pouring from the scar was almost unimaginable, but though Rand felt the flesh blister on his chest, he maintained his hold. As unconsciousness approached Rand, Shou-Lao--the mystic emanations from his heart blocked off--abruptly fell to the ground.
    Permanently marked with the dragon's scar, Daniel entered the cavern, smelling the decaying bodies within, and he found the brazier in the cavern's center. Rand bowed before the brazier, raised his hands, steeled himself, and gave his fate over to the will of the gods, plunging his open hands agonizingly into the glowing molten essence, again and again.

(Marvel Premiere#16 (fb) / Power Man and Iron Fist#75 (fb) ) - The Heart of the Dragon was inert, but Rand's hands glowed with power, and he at last sought relief for the searing agony, plunging them into the snow outside the cavern.

(Power Man and Iron Fist#119 (fb) - BTS) - After Daniel Rand slew Shou-Lao and gained the Iron Fist power from him, Chiantang prepared to level K'un-Lun once again. Master Khan imprisoned Chiantang in a dungeon deep below K'un-Lun.

(Power Man and Iron Fist#75) - Y-Ti prepared a blood sacrifice of Iron Fist to Master Khan, who attempted to reclaim the lost power of Shou-Lao. Power Man freed Iron Fist who threatened to use the power of Shou-Lao on Khan, causing him to beg for mercy.

(Iron Fist II#2) - The power of Shou-Lao was seen being transferred from the Steel Serpent (Davos) back into Iron Fist (Daniel Rand)

 

 

 

 

Comments: Created by Len Wein, Larry Hama, and Dick Giordiano.

    The flashback in Master of Kung Fu Annual#1 was told by Cybelle, and she went on to specify that the Dragon did guard its own heart until Danny Rand challenged and defeated it. I feel very confident that neither Priest nor anyone else involved with Power Man and Iron Fist#119 remembered (or had even read) Master of Kung Fu Annual#1 and/or that Shou-Lao already had an origin. I can't recall seeing it mentioned anywhere else. I certainly didn't remember...Spidermay did the Quan-St'ar profile, and I didn't even pick it up then. Donald Campbell pointed it out.
    Options:

  1. Disregard the story of Cybelle as inaccurate legend, an out-an-out lie, or otherwise discount it
  2. Do it the Marvel way, in true No-Prize fashion, and make both stories true. It would just mean that Chiantang did not act directly, he manipulated Shou-Lao, Quan-St'ar, and Y-Ti to fulfill the destiny/punishment he intended for Shou-Lao.

    Also, in Power Man and Iron Fist#119, the daughter of the Dragon King (as well as Chiantang) referred to Shou-Lao as a mortal initially that Chiantang transformed into the form of a serpent. Christopher Priest, who wrote Power Man and Iron Fist#119 when he was named Jim Owsley, later told the origin of Chiantang, which revised the origin of Shou-Lao as described below (and as transcribed by Donald Campbell):

THE HISTORY OF CHIANTANG

  There was once a fierce and deadly dragon named Chiantang.  He was brother to the Dragon King, the mightiest of all dragons.   The Dragon Kings daughter was betrothed to a young dragon named Shao Lao.  Lao shamed the girl and left her heartbroken.  This drove Chiantang mad, and Chiantang went after Lao, who had taken refuge in a city called KUn Lun.

  Chiantang destroyed KUn Lun, ripping the beating heart from Shao Lao and putting it inside a cauldron of boiling blood, while imprisoning the heartless Lao nearby, cursing him to spend all eternity in this state, thus becoming Shao Lao The Undying.

  Master Khan, however, got ticked off that Chiantang destroyed KUn Lun, and warned Chiantang to never do such a thing again.

  They all lived happily ever after.

  Centuries later, Daniel Rand slew Shao Lao as part of a ritual to attain the power of the Iron Fist.

  Chiantang found out that the curse hed imposed on Lao had been mitigated by a mere mortal, and he went nuts, going after Rand (now Iron Fist), and seeking to destroy KUn Lun again.

  This time, Master Khan stopped him in his tracks, warning Chiantang off.  Chiantang, in his rage, told Khan to get lost, and Khan put a whammy on Chiantang, reminding Chiantang who the Big Dog really is.

  Chiantang wasted away in prison for some years, until finally the Daughter of the Dragon King, his niece, decided she had to help him.  She pleaded with Khan, but Khan refused to listen to her.

  Finally, Khan was apparently killed, and the Daughter of the Dragon King saw this as her opportunity to free her beloved uncle.  She impersonated one of his guards and broke into prison to set Chiantang free.  An enraged Chiantang, furious about his humiliation and years of disgrace, vented his anger on the guard whod set him free.

  Yes, Chiantang killed the very girl he had been seeking to avenge.  This drove Chiantang completely insane (POWER MAN & IRON FIST #119), and he destroyed KUn Lun a final time, before seeking vengeance against Iron Fist (Khan was, at that time, still dead).

  Currently, Chiantang despises Iron Fist and blames IF for his nieces death and his own dishonor.  He also despises Master Khan.

So, my take is this:

    Shou-Lao's power/spirit would technically be behind-the-scenes for every Iron Fist appearance, but I'm only listing those directly involving him.

    Shou-Lao has been pictured as red, green, and golden. Perhaps he can change his color?

    Incidentally, How does one gain the Iron Fist power without killing Shou-Lao?
Maybe they didn't take all the power from the Heart of the Dragon, and Shou-Lao survived the earlier battles?

    Shou-Lao's form prior to his transformation by Chiantang is unknown.

    I'll cover Wendell Rand'Kai soon enough, but there is contradictory information regarding whether he originally came from K'un-Lun or not. Plus, I don't see Y-Ti (son of Tuan) as a reliable source.

Per Degaton points out:

In SSoC#192, one of the Khitains (ancestor's of the Chinese, I believe), invoked Shou-Lao...connection to Shou-Lao the Undying, from the origin of Iron Fist? I don't know.
   
K'un-Lun has been around for a million years or so, which is certainly old enough to be around during the Hyborian era. I don't know how long ago Shou-Lou had his heart ripped out...it could
be 12, 000 years ago, but I'd have thought that K'un-Lun wouldn't have been that well known, and that most humans who ever heard of Shou-Lao were either killed by him or gained the Iron Fist power and stayed in K'un-Lun.

Profile by Snood.

CLARIFICATIONS:
No known connection to:


images: (not counting ads)
Marvel Premiere#16, p8, panel 5 (vs. Daniel Rand)
        p9, panel 5 (Iron Fist blocking scar)
            panel 8 (Shou-Lao falls)
        p11, panel 1 (brazier)
Marvel Team-Up I#64, p7, panel 2 (vs. Davos)
Master of Kung Fu Annual#1, p27, panel 1 + 8 (Quan-St'ar)


Master of Kung Fu Annual#1 (1976) - Doug Moench (writer), Keith Pollard (pencils), Duffy Vohland & John Tartaglione (inks), Marv Wolfman (editor)
Marvel Team-Up I#64 (December, 1977) - Chris Claremont (writer), John Byrne (pencils), Dave Hunt (inks), Archie Goodwin (editor)
Power Man/Iron Fist#75 (November, 1981) - Mary Jo Duffy (writer), Kerry Gammill (pencils), Ricardo Villamonte (inks), Denny O'Neil (editor)
Power Man/Iron Fist#119 (September, 1985) - Jim Owsley (writer), Mark Bright (pencils), Jerry Acerno (inks), Denny O'Neil (editor)
Iron Fist II#1-2 (September-October, 1996) - James Felder (writer), Robert Brown (pencils), Rey Garcia (inks)
Black Panther III#40 (March, 2002) - Christopher Priest (writer), Sal Velluto (pencils), Bob Almond (inks), Mike Marts (editor)
Immortal Iron Fist#4 (May 2007) - Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction (writers), David Aja (artist), Travel Foreman & Derek Fridolfs (artists p1-3, 9-10), Sal Buscema & Tom Palmer (artist p12-13), Alejandro Arbona (assistant editor), Warren Simons (editor)

Immortal Iron Fist#11 (January 2008) - Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction (writers), David Aja (artist), Kano (artists p7-9, 13-15), Alejandro Arbona (assistant editor), Warren Simons (editor)
Immortal Iron Fist#12 (February 2008) - Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction (writers), David Aja (artist), Kano (artists p1-3, 17-19), Javier Pulido (artist p4-6, 12-15), Alejandro Arbona (assistant editor), Warren Simons (editor)
Immortal Iron Fist#14 (June 2008) - Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction (writers), Tonci Zonjic (penciler, p4-23, 31-36), Clay Mann (penciler, p24-28), Stefano Gaudiano (inker, p4-28, 31-36), Kano (artist p1-3, 29-30), Alejandro Arbona (assistant editor), Warren Simons (editor)


Last updated: 05/10/08

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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