It has been many long years since the Great Struggle when the Dragon Master ravaged the world of ancient China. This mystical land of bamboo and lotus had for generations known secrets of spirit and energy. It was populated by many Clans, extended families living with one another. The Clans lived in harmony, each valued by the others for its wisdom, respected for its strengths, and forgiven for its weaknesses. Many of the Clans had developed styles of Kung-Fu, an ancient martial art of mental skill and physical dexterity used for defense and to promote agility. Each style of Kung-Fu established by the Clans had its own unique strengths and weaknesses, but to combine and master each of these different styles is to create unmatched strength, with no limit to the master's spiritual growth and physical power. It was required that each master prove himself by conquering a test of skills known only as the Shadow Gauntlet.
The Dragons were once proud and mighty, feared for their power and magic, but infighting caused their destruction and left the Dragon Master its sole survivor. An old and shrewd creature, his thirst for power fueled his ambition to destroy the other Clans and assume power over them all. With the help of his army of Snake warriors, the Dragon Master is attempting to build a new Dragon Clan using the Chi Power of his defeated foes. His evil plans rely on the secrets of Kung-Fu locked within the Forbidden Palace he now calls his home.
Despised for their guile and deception, the Snakes were themselves seduced by the offer of newfound power at the Dragon Master's side. They have assumed the role of his serpent army, using their stealth and lethal fighting skills to keep the other Clans under the Dragon's heel. The Snakes aspire one day to be elevated to the level of Dragon by the Master's evil magic.
From the Praying Mantis came patience and discipline, and this mystical Clan of warriors perished in the fight against the Dragon and the Snakes. Only SiFu, their wise master, remains to watch over the next generation of Mantis deep within their cavern home. Ghosts of the Dragon's victims are rumored to haunt the underground waterways of the Mantis Caves.
The Leopards are fierce warriors of the jungle known for their speed and incredible leaping abilities. They view a battle as an opportunity to prove their courage. Leopards prefer high perches that enable them to pounce down on enemies. The Leopards fought so hard against the Dragon Master and his minions that their clan has been nearly wiped out.
With their acrobatics and mischievous antics, the Monkeys make everyone laugh. The Monkey's humor allowed them never to be taken seriously enough to be considered a threat, and they were spared for the Dragon's further amusement. Being social animals, Monkeys love to drink and have parties. Their strength lies in their speed and flexibility which allows them to travel very quickly through the trees.
In the Cranes there was beauty and spirit. Freedom was the price of their vanity as their Master was captured by the Dragon and given as a prize to the Rat Pirate. The Cranes' wisdom lies in accomplishments int he arts and their physical grace and ability.
The Pandas are highly regarded teachers and scholars and the most peaceful of the clans. Unselfish and gentle, the Pandas live a very simple life aspiring only to attain wisdom and knowledge. Their Kung-Fu is purely defensive in nature, using their attacker's own energy against him.
The Boars have a history of being bullies, often working as bounty hunters or hired soldiers. They have formed an alliance with the Dragon Master to terrorize the remaining clans. Boars revel in fighting, eating, and getting rich. Their unabashed greed and crudeness is empowered by their brute strength and strong armor.
Rats are dirty scoundrels, thieves, and pirates. They horde anything that is valuable and live in filth. They attack mainly in packs due to their minimal size and strength. They almost seem to resent the nobility of other creatures and therefore are willing subordinates in the Dragon Master's quest for domination, for a price, of course.
The other clans rallied to the strength and wisdom of the Tiger, whose prestige and influence spurred the Dragon's demand for their extinction. Feared by the Dragon as his greatest enemy, they were all hunted down and destroyed.
Source: T'ai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger (PS1) instruction manual, p. 5-8