The Great Kung Lao (孔老) is a character occasionally referenced in the game series and featured in the television show Mortal Kombat: Conquest as the show’s protagonist. He is the ancestor of the present-day Kung Lao and Kung Jin.
About the Great Kung Lao
Being the first person on Earthrealm to represent the Order of Light in Mortal Kombat, he would do battle with the evil sorcerer and shapeshifter Shang Tsung (500 years before Liu Kang would do the same). As champion, Lao could not age.
Despite Tsung having the advantage of winning nine consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments, The Great Kung Lao defeated him and became Grand Champion, saving Earthrealm in the process. While it is common for the victor to take his opponent's life, Kung Lao spared the sorcerer.
Fifty years later, Shang Tsung, the now-old man he spared half a century before, had corrupted the tournament. Kung Lao was defeated by Goro, the Shokan prince. Afterwards, his soul was taken by Tsung, an event that would lead up to the events of the first arcade game.
Kung Lao's ending in Mortal Kombat (2011) states that he is the reincarnation of the Great Kung Lao. He learns this after touching his "ancestor's" tombstone and being filled with his memories. He was reincarnated so that he could avenge his failings. As this has never been brought up in the main storyline, it is unknown whether or not it is canon.
Appearances in Other Media
Mortal Kombat: Conquest
In Mortal Kombat: Conquest, the Great Kung Lao is portrayed by Paolo Montalban and the leading protagonist of the series. While Conquest was not part of the canon storyline the Mortal Kombat games follow, it serves as a prequel to the 1995 film Mortal Kombat and the series was immensely popular among the fan community, as the Great Kung Lao was mentioned in the film as Liu Kang's ancestor.
Kung Lao was raised in the temple of Order of Light. While he lived happily with his family and friends, Kung Lao prepared for his entire life to fight in Mortal Kombat. He was trained thoroughly under the monastery's phenomenal martial artists, teaching him moves many would think impossible. All of Kung Lao's training made him undeniably the monastery's best fighter.
After leaving the monastery, Kung Lao established himself in the trading post of Zhu Zin, that was owned by the Reylands. After the death of his lover, Jen Reyland, Kung Lao began to live with two other strong fighters, Jen's former bodyguard Siro, and the former thief Taja. Kung Lao made his living by fighting against the Outworld murderers and all those who threatened those he cared about. Yet every day, he also lived with two big regrets: the untimely death of his beloved Jen, and the mercy he showed to the miserable sorcerer Shang Tsung.
Mortal Kombat Comics (Mablibu)
In the Malibu's Mortal Kombat Comics, he appears as a person in his 30s. He wears a maroon red bandana and spiked wristbands. He also wears traditional Kung Fu red pants along with tabi shoes and a yellow sash.
Mortal Kombat (novel)
The Great Kung Lao, simply referred as Kung Lao, was featured in the 1995 non-canon novel Mortal Kombat written by Jeff Rovin.
Mortal Kombat (2021 film)
In the 2021 film Mortal Kombat, a painting that depicts the Great Kung Lao defeating Shang Tsung can be seen on a wall in Raiden's Temple. Kung Lao mentioned the Great Kung was the grand champion of Order of Light.
A master of martial arts from the Order of Light, Kung Lao's fighting prowess is unmatched by Earthrealm's inhabitants.
Mortal Kombat 11
- "Where did you-- Who? Who are you?"
- "God of--"
- "Forgive my disrespect, my Lord!"
- "The Kung Lao you knew?"
- "Trained? For what?"
- Defeated Shang Tsung to become Champion of Mortal Kombat.
- 50 years later, he was defeated and killed by Goro. In Kung Lao's Mortal Kombat Gold ending, Goro said that the Great Kung Lao was a great man and a noble warrior.
- After his defeat at the hands of Goro, Shang Tsung took Great Kung Lao's soul. His soul was freed after the death of Shang Tsung in the fight against Onaga, the Dragon King.
- Can be summoned by Kung Lao to assist in battle.
- Liu Kang is said to be one of the Great Kung Lao's last descendants through various media, such as the 1995 film Mortal Kombat, and a trading card. It is possible that Liu Kang and Kung Lao are cousins.
- It should be noted that Kung Lao is the Hokkien and Cantonese pronunciation of "鋼劉" (while Kang Liu is Mandarin).
- In the first episode of the series MK: Conquest, he is seen wearing his descendant's MK3 costume.
- His appearance in Mortal Kombat (2011) is nearly identical to his appearance in the Mortal Kombat comics drawn by John Tobias. This appearance is also used as the basis for his design Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge.
- It is unknown if his bandana and spiked wristbands have any relation to the pieces Liu Kang uses. Liu Kang started using the outfit after his first win in Mortal Kombat.
- In Mortal Kombat 11, his spirit can be summoned by Kung Lao.
- Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath marks the first time the Great Kung Lao appears physically outside flashblacks in the game series.