Chiaotzu in Dragon Ball Z is the ghost of a dead child that haunts Tien?

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Chiaotzu in Dragon Ball Z is the ghost of a dead child that haunts Tien?

First, theory: 

I believe that before the events of Dragon Ball (or at least before we meet Tien and Chiaotzu) Tien and Chiaotzu had a connection from an early age. I think they could have been brothers or were orphans and lived in a children’s home together.Tien took a role as a big brother to Chiaotzu in life, protecting him and spending his time with him. Something tragic happened during their childhood, which led to Chiaotzu’s death.


Tien may have even caused the death himself as an accident. As they had a bond in life during their childhood, Chiaotzu was scared to passover to the otherworld without Tien and clung on to life. He eventually manifested his spirit in the form we know it today and began to haunt Tien. Tien himself was so damaged by Chiaotzu’s early death that it broke something in him. With Chiaotzu dead, he ran away from home, as it only gave him painful memories. He became the bandit figure that we first see him as in Dragon Ball. He was a violent person who only showed affection to Tien in the beginning. He eventually joined Hermit Crane’s school, which was a negative influence on him too. The only peace he got to himself was achieved by the intense meditation that he did.

Here’s my evidence:

  • My strongest piece of evidence is Chiaotzu’s appearance. Chiaotzu bares a very striking resemblance to jiang shi. Jiang Shi are a type of zombie/ghost/vampire in Chinese folklore. Look at the similarities between Chiaotzu and Jiang Shi and here.

TC Anime Blog - Chiaotzu in Dragon Ball Z
TC Anime Blog - Chiaotzu in Dragon Ball Z - jiangshi

TC Anime Blog - Chiaotzu in Dragon Ball Z

  • If I remember correctly, Chiaotzu’s appearance is based on Jiang Shi. Jiang Shi are typically exetremely pale white with red cheeks. They wear official garments from the Qing dynasty, like those worn by Chiaotzu. They usually have very little emotion in their face, like Chiaotzu and have very stiff, unemotive bodies, just like chiaotzu did in the original Dragon Ball.
  • My next piece of evidence is the powers that Chiaotzu uses. Chiaotzu has mystical powers that are never explained during Dragon Ball. He could fly before all other characters and in a way that the others didn’t (with stiff limbs, in a standing position). He has telekinetic powers that he uses to move objects and has used them to fix the World Martial Arts Tournament twice. Telekinesis is is used by poltergeists. He has a power in which he can paralyse an opponent that he used to try to fix the fight between Tien and  Goku in the the World Martial Arts Tournament, which is a power commonly attributed to ghosts.

TC Anime Blog - Chiaotzu in Dragon Ball Z

  • In the Japanese versions of the manga and anime, Chiaotzu often refers to Tien as ‘Tien-san’ which is implies obedience, familiarity and respect. This supports the theory that they were brothers or at least that Tien held a big brother role for Chiaotzu.
  • Tien and Chiaotzu are almost inseparable throughout the series. They are almost always together and even live together on a farm after the events of Dragon Ball Z. The few times that they are apart, Chiaotzu shows anxiety to being away from Tien for so long. They protect each other and care about each other more than they care for the other characters.
  • In many episodes of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, Chiaotzu makes passing remarks about never being able to grow up, when his size is made fun of or brought up. I think I remember one of these remarks in the episode, ‘Changes’, in which it shows the Z fighters at that time had grown up to how they look now and even Piccolo who was the antagonist had grown up.
  • Tien meditates very frequently. He is shown to sometimes be unwakeable during his meditative state and produces energy coming from his body. He does this (in my theory) to try and shut out the memories and the demons he carries with him from Chiaotzu’s death. (You might also be interested to know that Tien is based on a character from Journey To The West that uses meditation in order to reach enlightenment and to open his mind’s eye, which enables him to see things how they really are. Dragon Ball is roughly based on Journey To The West and many of the characters hold striking resemblances to characters from Journey To The West.

There is other evidence to my theory and other things that imply that my theory could be true in the manga and anime but I can’t remember from the top of my head.

TL;DR: Chiaotzu and Tien were close as children. Chiaotzu eventually died, which broke Tien, who then ran away, became a bandit and started meditating to relieve the pain. Chiaotzu manifested himself as a Jiang Shi; a form of ghost/zombie in Japanese folklore.

The evidence is that Chiaotzu bares a striking resemblance to Jiang Shi, has ghost like powers, little emotions shown and passes off passing remarks of never being able to grow up. Tien is shown as fierce and constantly meditates in order to calm himself when stressed. The two of them are extremely close and hardly ever seen apart.

I’d love to see some Dragon Ball origin stories that are canon. Stories about Tien, Yamcha, Krillin, Vegeta, Pikon, etc. It’d be a great thing to explore and in most cases, it’d be great because their powers would be so limited. Dragon Ball was so good because the powers were limited, which made the story to be more focused on the adventures. This in turn would make the stories more engaging.


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