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. However, he has tendencies to be too "by-the-book" and to put his duty above his feelings, in contrast to Mulan. He is often disparagingly called a 'Pretty Boy' due to his dashing good looks and strong physique. He is reserved and thoughtful, a more logical and calming influence to Mulan's adventurous personality.
Also, despite his skill at military affairs, he seems to be somewhat lacking in social skills, as he has trouble telling Mulan about his feelings for her.
Shortly after his initial introduction in Mulan, 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 a battle against the Huns. 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, 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.
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 are able to take the Emperor to safety, but when Shang is knocked out, 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 her 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, somewhat nervously, talks to her, under the excuse of returning her---technically her father's---helment that 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 accepts.
The film begins with him proposing to marry 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 China. He and Mulan go through much conflict around their relationship, which is partly 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, when it is revealed he is alive (with help from his horse), 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 between the kingdoms.
Mulan later tells Shang about Mushu; Shang makes the choice to combine both families' temples so that Mushu can remain as Mulan's guardian.
Shang appears briefly in the episode Max's New Car.
- 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.
- Shang'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.
- Shang is the second to have his upper torso be exposed after Aladdin, but the first to entirely remove his upper clothing by taking them off.
- Shang is the first to not share a romantic kiss with the heroine, not counting the sequel.
- Shang is the third Disney prince to wield a sword after Aladdin and Prince Phillip.
- Shang is the first to show gratitude and give respect to the heroine's attributes.
- Shang is the second Disney prince to own his own horse after Prince Phillip and Samson. Flynn Rider and Maximus could count as the third pairing, but they had never been together since they had come from different backgrounds, but who both do join up later as team.
- Shang is the third to not be of royal decent, the first being Aladdin, the second being John Smith, the fourth being Flynn Rider and the fifth being Kristoff.
- Shang is also the third Disney prince to marry someone who is not a princess, the first being Prince Charming, the second being Prince Adam and the fourth being Prince Naveen.
- Shang is also the third Disney prince to have his speaking and singing voices done by two different people. The first being Prince Charming and the second being Aladdin.
- Shang is possibly ambidextrous. He tends to do a lot with left hand as well as right.
- Every time a hat (or helmet) is shown with Li Shang it is used negatively.
- His name in the Mandarian version is Xiang (to soar) which is pronounced still as Shang but the ang sounds like ong in direct 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 and appears to be somewhat clumsy in the second movie, much like Mulan herself.
- He appears to be a speed reader in the second movie.
- If he's "number one in his class" it's possible he has the "Jinshi" title.
- Although he seems to never be in pain when things happen in fights (such as the arrow stabbing him), he wiggles around highly disturbed by worms in his shirt.
- Li Shang is the third character to wear his hair into a pony tale. The first is Prince Adam in his human form at the end of the movie the second is John Rolfe.
- Shang and Adam have the longest hair of all the Disney Princes.