The Shanshu Prophecy is a prophecy that appears in the fictional universe of the television series Angel. Contained in the Scrolls of Aberjian, the prophecy first appears in the episode "Blind Date" and is more fully revealed in the season finale of the show's first season, "To Shanshu in L.A.". The Shanshu Prophecy foresees the restoration of a vampire with a soul into a mortal human being.
Translated, "shanshu" means both "to live" and "to die." Wesley interprets the text as meaning that the vampire with a soul will, at the end of his numerous trials, live as human once more.
As of issue 12 in the comic continuation, Angel After the Fall, Angel's true role in the Apocalypse is (seemingly) revealed to him through a vision granted by Wesley (which he claims comes from the higher ups at Wolfram and Hart). Angel, already on the verge of death, chooses to resign himself to oblivion rather than see the prophecy come to pass.
Angel's faith in his role wavers in the fifth season. He takes on a more corporate, bureaucratic approach to fighting evil when he takes control of the Los Angeles branch of Wolfram & Hart, and feels disconnected from his mission. Also, his old rival Spike (another vampire with a soul) is resurrected in L.A.; Spike had recently died as a Champion, sacrificing himself to save the world. Two of Angel's enemies, Eve and Lindsey McDonald, take advantage of the situation; Eve convinces Angel and Spike that the existence of two ensouled vampire Champions is interfering with the Shanshu Prophecy and tearing the bonds of reality. She presents them with a falsified translation of the prophecy, leading them to believe that they can only restore the balance of the universe by competing to drink from the Cup of Perpetual Torment; whoever drinks first will be the one to later become human. Before the hoax is revealed, Spike overpowers Angel and claims the prophesized destiny for himself, proving himself a true contender for Shanshu. Whilst arguing over who the prophecy talked about (Angel or Spike), Spike points out that Angel was cursed with his soul & had no choice in the matter whereas he chose to regain his soul, at which point Angel points out that Spike only did it to get into a girl's pants.
Angel later infiltrates the most powerful demon organization in this dimension, the Circle of the Black Thorn, in an attempt to uncover the representatives of the Senior Partners' power in this dimension. They demand a sacrifice from him to prove his loyalty: he is forced to sign away his potential claim to Shanshu, in his own blood, the Circle unable to understand that Angel would do good just for the sake of it rather than for any reward. Angel, Spike, and their remaining allies later assassinate each and every member of the Circle, thereby incurring the wrath of the armies of the Senior Partners.
Earlier, as Angel and Spike watch the others leaving for their coming battles, they discuss the Prophecy:
Spike: "What do you think all this means for that Shanshu boogaboo? If we make it through this, does one of us get to be a real boy?"
Angel: "Who are you kiddin'. We're not gonna make it through."
Spike: "Well as long as it's not you."
The series ends as Spike, Angel, Gunn, and Illyria stand alone against the demons and dragons sent by the Senior Partners; the fulfillment of the prophecy remains unresolved. Although Angel is revealed to have become at least partly human during "Angel: After the Fall", this is revealed to have been due to the Senior Partners attempting to deprive Angel of his strength when he needs it most rather than out of any benevolence on the part of the Powers , however, this could be seen as an indirect act of fate, as the prophecy was technically fulfilled..
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