Shui has generally stereotypical Earth Nation features of dark brown hair and bright green eyes. Despite having a relatively muscular physique he is quite unhealthy looking with dark rings under his eyes and sickly pale skin tone.
Shui is a timid person by nature being shy to the point of boardering on anti-social although he makes an effort to deal with other people, this is largely due to his cloistered upbringing. Shui is kind and likes to help people when possible although he has a strong belief in rules or laws.
Shui was born to a minor branch of a lesser noble family called the Zu family situated in Ba Sing Se. Shui was a sickly child often getting awful migraines and loosing his strength for no reason the doctors could discover, he rarely slept and he also had a generally poor immune system. Although he showed an ability to earthbend at an early age his parents refused to train him for many years, he lived a sheltered life never leaving the family estate and spending most of his time reading about the world instead of experiencing it. The only person he regularly saw apart from his parents was his little sister.
When he was fifteen Shui's father Shun, in an attempt to improve his poor health, decided to start his training in Earthbending and began teaching Shui the traditional forms but he showed only limited skills in this style. After a few months of little progress Shui's mother, originally from Zaofu, tried teaching her son in the forms that had been invented by Toph Beifong. Shui showed a natural talent for this style and after two years of study he showed an impressive improvement in health although his illness still occassionally struck but now he could adventure out of his home and travel around the Earth Republic with his parents.
At nineteen Shui left home on his own for the first time in his life to travel to Zaofu to visit his mother's family and spent a year with them learning Earthbending from his Grandfather and Uncle, Shui made a short-lived attempt at learning metalbending but his earthbending fundamentals were too poor due to starting his training so late in life to make a sucessful effort at it.
At twenty Shui left Zaofu and, after sending a letter to his parents, decided to travel the world wanting to learn about different kinds of bending and cultures. Shui visited various Air Temples, the Fire Nation and the Northern Water Tribe, at each of these places he studied the bending of these nations, gaining a particular fasination with waterbending even learning some of the form movements for amusement.
Now Shui has decided that he has no interest in returning to his aristrocratic family but would rather help people, after exchanging a few letters with his family to explain this he decided to follow the recommendation of his mother and travel to Republic City to continue his Earthbending studies and perhaps find a way to help people.