Dragon Ball: Why does Tien have a third eye? Explained

Tien Shinhan (Image via Toei Animation)
Tien Shinhan (Image via Toei Animation)

As one of the few characters in Dragon Ball to have ever beaten Goku in a World Tournament, Tien Shinhan has always been considered to be one of the strongest warriors in the series. He was initially introduced as an antagonist in Chapter #113, where he entered the World Martial Arts Tournament with the intent of killing Son Goku. However, realising the error of his ways, he later became an ally to Goku and helped him in the fight with King Piccolo.

Tien has been a major supporting character in the three cannon shows ( Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball Super). He has the ability to rival Krillin as the strongest non-Saiyan on Earth.

One of his distinguishing features is that, even though he is considered to be an earthling, he has three eyes, making fans wonder what it does and why he has it.

Despite being an earthling, why does Tien have a third eye in Dragon Ball?

Tien as seen in the anime (Image via Toei Animation)
Tien as seen in the anime (Image via Toei Animation)

According to the official guidebooks called Daizenshuu, and editor Akira Toriyama, Tien is descended from an ancient alien community based on Earth, known as the three-eyed people.

It is unclear whether this community still exists or if Tien is the last of his race. Tien is presumed to have been born on Earth and is therefore referred to as an Earthling rather than a human.

Tien was initially trained by Master Shen, an extremely ruthless and sadistic individual who had no moral qualms about murdering anyone in his way. As a result, Tien was unable to use the myriad powers of his third eye because it is considered that the third eye can only be used for good purposes.

Perhaps as another reference to his alien origins, Tien has superhuman abilities like growing arms out of his back and splitting himself into four people. Tien's third eye gives him the ability to fastrack movements and fire ki blasts out of it.

He can also control each of his eyes individually, increasing his field of vision. This proved to be an extremely important skill in his fight against Goku who used Afterimage Strike.

According to Toriyama, Tiien's third eye gives him the true power of seeing. Akira Toriyama's decision to create a character with three eyes could have a theological reference. Buddhists consider the third as the "eye of consciousness". They believe one develops it after they have achieved enlightenment.

The only other time a three-eyed character was seen in Dragon Ball was when Goku went into the Other World and a woman strikingly similar to Tien was seen. Fans believe it to be his mother.

Concluding thoughts

Being a part of the Chosen 10 for the Tournament of Power, Tien has managed to stay relevant in the Dragon Ball series. He was also able to slow Cell with his Tri-Beam Attack and has stayed as one of those who may have the potential to fight against some of the strongest in the series.

He opened his own dojo in the Universe Survival Saga and appeared to be a strict teacher, quietly looking forward to his student's development.

Tien was brave enough to stand up to the likes of Beerus, the God of Destruction, and the Frieza force, demonstrating his might as a warrior. He has been quite a relatable character and his transformation from a misguided boy to a respectable man has been entertaining for fans.