Jackie Chan, an amateur archeologist, would prefer to quietly do his work for the local university, but fate has dealt him another hand. Finding a shield containing a talisman, he discovers that it is but the first of a dozen pursued by a criminal organization called "The Dark Hand," led by a man named Valmont and guided by a spirit named Shendu. Jackie, his niece Jade, and their uncle must cooperate with the secret law enforcement organization, Section 13, to oppose this threat.
Jackie Chan — An archaeologist in the series who lives in San Francisco with his uncle. He is forced into many adventures after being spurred on by both his uncle and close friend Captain Black of Section 13 to stop the Dark Hand from performing evil acts with magical artifacts. Later in the series he went up against similar evil forces. Jackie is a skilled martial artist and is very agile, but would prefer not to fight evil forces unless he has no choice.
Jade Chan — Jackie's pre-teen niece (actually his first cousin once removed, since she is his cousin Shen's daughter). She was born and raised in Hong Kong. However, because of her impatient personality, her school performance dropped low, and so she was sent to San Francisco to live with her uncle Jackie. At first, she was not happy about her 'banishment'. Luckily, Jade quickly changed her mind when she saw her uncle fighting off three sinister men and getting kidnapped by secret agents right afterwards. In her effort to rescue her uncle, she became acquainted with Section 13 and joined Jackie and Uncle in their subsequent adventures against the rising dark mystical forces.
Uncle — Called Uncle by everyone even though he is only Jackie's uncle. Uncle owns an antique store (which was originally an 8-track tape store), and became a chi wizard by learning his skills from Master Fong. In addition, he is an accomplished martial artist in his own right, and according to Jackie, Uncle himself was just like Jackie at the same age. Apparently, after he became too old for martial arts, he then studied an unknown fighting style that allowed him to knock out opponents with small jabs to the chest or neck, allowing him to knock out stronger opponents like Captain Black (utilized in "Day of the Dragon").
Captain Black — An old friend of Jackie Chan and the leader of the government organization known as Section 13. When the Dark Hand displayed an interest in ancient artifacts (actually Shendu's talismans), Black recruited his old friend Jackie as a consultant, but soon Jackie, his niece Jade and his Uncle all became personally embroiled in combat against Shendu and other magic-wielding forces. Black assists the characters of the show many times throughout the series, especially against each season's main threat. Originally a non-believer of magic, Captain Black was instantly converted when he saw Shendu in person (which does create some problems when he attempts to gain special permission for missions and equipment from his superiors against supernatural threats).
Tohru — Once the best enforcer for the Dark Hand who led Valmont's Enforcers during most of the talisman hunts on behalf of the dragon sorcerer Shendu. Despite his formidable size and strength, he proved to be no match for Jackie's martial arts skills. His string of defeats displeased Valmont so much that, for the hunt for one of the last talismans (the Pig), he hired the then-freelancer Hak Foo to ensure success of the mission -- a switch which Tohru greatly resented. Eventually (after the 1st season), Tohru changed sides and became Uncle's assistant and apprentice.
Shendu — The main antagonist of the series, Shendu was once the ruler of China, but his subjects rebelled, led by Lo Pei, who turned him into a statue, and then scattered his twelve powers in the form of twelve talismans. Shendu vowed revenge, but was unable to do so for 900 years. He eventually teamed up with the Dark Hand, promising them a lost treasure in exchange for the talismans.
Valmont — The leader of the Dark Hand who hails from the United Kingdom. He is a skillful criminal mastermind and martial arts expert who is able to hold his own against (and even get the better of) Jackie in their personal confrontations. When something goes wrong, he says his catchphrase, "blast!"
Finn — An Irish-American criminal and the brains (or at least the most intelligent) of the Dark Hand enforcers. He is a 1970s fanatic, and sang disco at weddings before joining the Dark Hand. Along with the other two recurring Enforcers and Hak Foo, he worked for Shendu, Valmont, Daolon Wong, Tarakudo and Drago (shortly). He commonly and playfully refers to Valmont as Big-V and Shendu as "Shen-Dude".
Ratso — A nerdy strongman who acts somewhat childish, dimwitted and has a fondness of toys, baseball and grilled cheese sandwiches. He wears a bandage across his nose as a fashion statement, and studied theoretical physics before joining the Enforcers.
Chow — Of Asian descent (most likely Chinese, for in Season 2 episode 3, he is able to read a riddle in Chinese), he is the shortest and youngest member of the group. His trademark is a pair of orange sunglasses, which are actually eyeglasses. He worked at a store called Sunglass Shack, where he was employee of the month 3 times, before joining the Dark Hand.
Shendu's 12 Talismans — The Talismans of "Shendu" are named for the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. They each hold a different aspect of Shendu's power.
- Rooster Talisman — With it, a person can fly, but it is only with the Rabbit that they are able to achieve supersonic flight speeds.
- Ox Talisman — Gives the user the power of Super Strength and Durability.
- Snake Talisman — Gives the user the power of Invisibility.
- Sheep Talisman — Gives the user the power of Astral Projection, or the ability to eject the soul from the body and wander as a spirit. In this form, one is invisible, inaudible, and able to fly, pass through walls, and enter a person's dreams (where one can be seen and heard).
- Rabbit Talisman — Gives the user the power of super speed.
- Dragon Talisman — Gives the user the Power of Combustion and pyrokinesis, allows holder to shoot beams of explosive flaming energy to be discharged from the talisman.
- Rat Talisman — Gives the user the power of Animation; "motion to the motionless". Gives inanimate objects life.
- Horse Talisman — Gives the user the power of Healing. Its magic is that, "if activated, the Noble Horse expels all alien forces within," curing the user of foreign bodies (i.e. germs, viruses, etc). It can also heal physical injuries, repair broken objects and instantly relieve physical pain and disorientation (such as sea sickness).
- Dog Talisman — Gives the user the power of Immortality; "The Dog Talisman is best friend to Man, it restores youthful energy and grants Eternal Life." It can negate the "effects" of aging, while making the user invulnerable.
- Pig Talisman — Gives the user the power of Laser/"Heat-Beam Eye Blasts"/Optic Blasts. The user is given the power to shoot powerful beams of energy from their eyes. It can also be used to see everything as heat (heatvision). It can be seen as a reverse to the snake talisman due to the fact that it can detect someone who is invisible.
- Monkey Talisman — Gives the user the power of Animal Shapeshifting. Any item/person/animal may be changed into the shape of any animal by saying the name of the intended animal's shape. It is unknown if it can do extinct animals, e.g. a T-rex. The talisman then projects a beam or vapor that transforms whatever it hits. (Saying/thinking a variant of "change back" undoes the spell.)
- Tiger Talisman — Gives the user the power of Balance. When halved, it also splits the user's positive and negative halves (Yin and Yang) into two separate beings, each holding a half of the talisman. Can also be used to find the "other half" of a broken object. The two beings rejoin when they reunite the broken talisman. As said by Shendu, the Tiger is meant to balance the other 11 Talismans.