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What Ethnicity is Lady Shiva?

Every once in awhile a post pops up on tumblr discussing at length what ethnicity Lady Shiva is, mostly in deference to what ethnicity that makes Cassandra Cain. This is not a call-out post, but rather a compilation of facts and my interpretations. I’ve done this before, but the post is now lost to the vast expanse of the internet. It’s worth typing up again.

Lady Shiva has suffered through the years as being ambiguously Asian with enough controversial and circuitous backstories that we are provided with both an abundance and lack of an answer. In order to help you all out, I’m just going to provide a case-by-case analysis on Shiva’s appearances and outfits in order to discern her ethnicity. Associated panels posted below; special thank to @judgeanon for reading through this. 

TLDR; Lady Shiva was created specifically as a mixture between different Eastern cultures to act as a foil to the more traditionally American heroes. She has been portrayed with mainly Japanese and Chinese influences, but also importantly Southeast Asian, Korean and South Asian references. I firmly believe Lady Shiva is Chinese, but there is evidence to be argued for each and every one of the ethnicities/regions listed above. (My headcanon, what I believe to be the most probable backstory she has can be found by searching ** in this extremely long post.)

Note: being Chinese is not an ethnicity, but rather a nationality. I’m using the main ethnic group in China, the Han, and the word Chinese interchangeably. That being said, there has never been any indication that she is or is not Han vs any other ethnic group native to China.

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