Matai Shang was a Hekkador (leader) of the Holy Therns, the last man to serve in that role before John Carter exposed the cult as a fraud. After being exposed, he was forced into an alliance with Thurid, an ambitious Dator of the First Born who had also suffered misfortune at Carter's hands, and together they kidnapped Carter's beloved princess, Dejah Thoris, her companion Thuvia, and rescued Shang's daughter, Phaidor, taking them all the way to Kadabra in the far north, where the Jeddak Salensus Oll offered them safety from the Virginian's wrath.
Other versions Edit
The below information is not from the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and therefore isn't considered canon
A version of Matai Shang appeared in the 2012 John Carter movie, portrayed by Mark Strong. Here, Shang had the role of the story's main villain, and was personally - albeit indirectly - involved in the politics between Zodanga and Helium. As with the original stories, he was the leader of the Therns, however his title was never explicitly mentioned. Much like the other Therns in the film, he possessed several supernatural abilities such as shape-shifting, telepathy, and even teleportation. Although the nature of these abilities was never revealed, it was strongly implied that they were granted through use of advanced technology. Also, unlike the Therns in the original stories, Matai Shang and his subordinates did not cover their heads.