Originally, Chang was a Chinese peasant farmer. He discovered Greel, who had escaped to this time period in a time cabinet. Believing Greel to be the god Weng-Chiang, Chang hid him from Imperial troops and later became the leader of the Tong of the Black Scorpion, a cult devoted to doing Greel's bidding.
Greel granted Chang mental powers "undreamed of in this century", amongst them hypnosis, telepathy, and telekinesis. Chang used these abilities as part of a magic act in London, where he was publicised as a "master of magic and mesmerism". During his performances at the Palace Theatre in Limehouse, Chang mesmerised his audiences by reading minds and levitating young women, including Emma Buller, above the floor. Unknown to anyone, Chang was using his on-stage persona as a cover while he led the search for Greel's time cabinet. Chang's secondary duties included attending to his master, who hid in the basement of the Palace Theatre, and procuring young women to replenish Greel's bodily degeneration. During his act, Chang would hypnotise women volunteers. They would mindlessly do his bidding once the show was over.
The Fourth Doctor investigated the disappearances of women in the area. Chang tried to kill him on behalf of Greel, directly and through the Tong. His repeated failures earned him the wrath of his master, who summarily dismissed him. As a penalty, Greel secretly hid the body of a dead theatre custodian inside Li H'sen Chang's magic box. It tumbled onstage in front of Chang's stunned audience. Chang fled the scene, but was cornered by the Doctor. He threw himself to the giant rats created by Greel in the London sewers.
The rats ravaged him and tore off a leg, but Chang survived. His loyalty to Greel turned to hate when he realised that Greel had ruined his performance. Chang surprised the Doctor and Leela by greeting them as they arrived at the Tong's hideout. While smoking opium to dull the pain, he explained how he had met Greel and helped smuggle him out of China. He lamented he had been scheduled to perform at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria, then died of his injuries. (TV: The Talons of Weng-Chiang)
Although Chang was dead, his daughter Hsien-Ko Chang returned to the Doctor's life in 1937. Her father's exposure to Zygma energy had resulted in her mutating in the womb to become apparently immortal, looking only twenty-five while her mid-sixties. Using the reactivated Mr Sin, Hsien-Ko tried to draw Greel to the present so she could punish him for his role in her father's death, but the Doctor halted this plan. (PROSE: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang)
Behind the scenes
- A Caucasian actor, John Bennett, portrayed Li H'Sen Chang, using makeup to make him appear Chinese and adopting a Chinese accent. In The Talents of Greel, Chang was portrayed by an actor of actual Chinese descent, Nicholas Goh.
- The story's writer Robert Holmes favoured breaking this six-episode Doctor Who serial into a four-episode story followed by a two-episode story (or vice versa). In the case of The Talons of Weng-Chiang, the first four episodes concentrate more on Li H'Sen Chang. Following Chang's death, the final two episodes of the serial centre more on Greel himself and on his other henchman, Mr Sin.
- A poster for Li H'Sen Chang's show can be seen in The Next Doctor, despite the story taking place in 1851 (nearly 40 years before the events of The Talons of Weng-Chiang).
- A similar poster featuring Chang as a LEGO minifigure can be seen in LEGO Dimensions, in the Victorian London section of the level "The Dalek Extermination of Earth".