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Tien Shinhan , known as Shinto in the Harmony Gold dub, is first introduced in chapter 113 of the manga series. Initially an enemy of Goku who was trained by
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Roshi's rival the Crane Hermit, Tien soon makes peace with Goku and becomes a Z Fighter. Accompanied by his friend Chiaotzu, Tien enters the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament and faces Goku, who proves to be a more than worthy opponent. Eventually, after Goku survives every attack thrown at him, Tien destroys the arena with his Kikohou, but Goku jumps into the air and uses his Kamehameha to slam himself into Tien. Both fighters fall down to the ground, but Goku is hit by a passing car, causing him to land on the ground first, which makes Tien the winner. Afterwards, Tien and Chiaotzu become allies of Goku. He participated in the battle against the Saiyans in Dragon Ball Z, in which he is killed by Nappa, along with Chiaotzu, Yamcha and Piccolo. The four of them are trained by King Kai and later revived by Porunga. Tien also participated in the battles against Cell and Majin Buu.

Tien is bald and has three eyes, the third placed on his forehead. The third eye is from becoming enlightened. When Toriyama began creating the Dragon Ball series, he used Wu Cheng'en's Journey to the West as a prototype for his own work. Tien's three eyed physical characteristic resembles the story character Erlang Shen, and both are warriors who were originally adversaries of the main character. His outfits change consistently as the series goes on, and he usually doesn't wear a shirt when fighting. In the Japanese version of the series, he was voiced by Hirotaka Suzuoki until his death in 2006; Kōichi Yamadera acted as a substitute for Suzuoki for episodes 82 and 84 of the series. He is voiced by Mitsuaki Madono in Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit and by Hikaru Midorikawa in Dragon Ball Kai. In the English Funimation dub of the series, he was voiced by Chris Cason in the third season and by John Burgmeier from the fourth season onwards and in the redub of the third season. He was voiced by Matt Smith in the Canadian Ocean Group dub.