Over the course of the past few decades, the various Dragon Ball anime and manga series have introduced a number of interesting characters and powerful fighters. While the later years of the franchise have tended to focus more and more on the Saiyan characters, there’s a number of other Z Fighters who are more than worthy of respect. Chief among them is the tiny powerhouse and constant companion of Tien, Chiaotzu.
Introduced in the original incarnation of Dragon Ball, Chiaotzu is often presented as lighthearted and whimsical, but his cute facade masks a dark past and some unique abilities. He may not have the biggest or flashiest moves, but his specific set of skills and mental powers make him one of the series’ most formidable fighters. We’ve already highlighted a number of facts about his best friend Tien, so it’s only right we put the spotlight on one of Dragon Ball’s smallest fighters.
Here’s 15 Things You Never Knew About Chiaotzu.
15 He May Be A Vampire
With Dragon Ball Z’s near-constant focus on the Saiyan race, we don’t really learn to much about the other species that make up the world. Namekians get a bit of a spotlight, and it’s safe to say we understand the humans pretty well, but there are a lot of other characters in the franchise that exist in a sort of gray area. Though we know Tien is part of the Three-Eyed Clan, despite not knowing much about them, it’s unclear from what line Chiaotzu hails. Though he’s presented as human, his appearance and mannerisms suggest something else, and his inspiration may just provide us with our answer.
In Chinese lore, Jiang Shi are a particular type of vampiric spirit that were clearly an inspiration for Chiaotzu. Not only do they dress in a similar manner, wearing the Qing-era robes and hat that Chiaotzu’s clothes are based upon, but they also have white skin and hop instead of walk, mirroring Chiaotzu’s habit of floating everywhere. Whether this means he’s actually a vampire in the world of Dragon Ball, we can only guess, but it’s doubtful that Akira Toriyama didn’t have the Jiang Shi in mind when he created Chiaotzu.
14 All Hail Emperor Chiaotzu
One of the things fans of any franchise or piece of media love is catching small Easter eggs, references, and even mistakes. While the latter two are intentional bits of lore, trivia, and tribute for eagle-eyed consumers, mistakes are tiny accidents that take on a life of their own for those obsessed with the minutia of TV and film. Thanks to Dragon Ball and its many successive series and movies being translated from Japanese to English (among many other languages), a number of small missteps often occur during the dubbing process.
The Ocean Group dub of Dragon Ball Z has long been regarded as one of the worst of the batch, and it features a fun little flub about Chiaotzu. After one of Chiaotzu’s deaths and resurrections by the titular Dragon Balls, he is referred to as “Emperor Chiaotzu.” While this sense of reverence may seem misplaced, it’s actually due to a misunderstanding. In the seemingly non-canon movie Dragon Ball: Mystical Adventure, Chiaotzu actually plays royalty. While this isn't the case in the normal timeline, some mistake in the dub or writing had the character still listed this way. Of course, the other possibility is that this was merely an extremely well-placed Easter egg, but that seems rather unlikely.
13 He Can Stop Bullets With His Mind
Anyone who’s ever seen Dragon Ball knows that one of Chiaotzu’s assets is his psychic power. Though not as much on display in Dragon Ball Z, Chiaotzu’s mental abilities were used to great effect a number of times in the original anime. While Chiaotzu’s psychic powers are often used to inflict damage (among other things), he can also use them in a variety of cinematic ways. One such example of Chiaotzu’s powers, that’s hard to imagine wasn’t inspiration for The Matrix, is stopping bullets with his mind.
During the King Piccolo Saga, Chiaotzu and Tien teamed up with Master Roshi to collect the Dragon Balls following the death of Krillin. In the midst of gathering them, they came across the Mercenary Clan. A mix of humanoid animals and pirates, the Clan unloaded their machine guns on the trio, but Chiaotzu stepped in and stopped all of the bullets midair, astonishing his friends and frightening his opponents. With such a display of power, it’s even more of shame that Chiaotzu gets shunted so far to the side in the later years of the series.
12 He Was A Con Artist with Tien
Long before Chiaotzu was a hero helping to protect the Earth with the rest of the future Z Fighters, he and Tien were con artists training to be mercenaries. Before Master Roshi formed his Turtle School, he was a disciple of Master Mutaito along with his best friend Shen. Eventually, the two severed ties as their opinions on teaching and fighting began to differ, and Shen founded the Crane School. It was there that Tien and Chiaotzu first trained (and gained their signature garb), and it led them down a dark path.
While the two never became full assassins, they pulled their share of cons on people. In one instance, they convinced a village that it needed to be saved from the monstrous InoShikaCho, a boar/deer/butterfly hybrid (seriously) that was actually a former pet of Shen and Roshi. When Goku intervened to stop the con, Tien and Chiaotzu convinced the village that the young Saiyan was actually in command of the rampaging beast. Luckily, the two eventually switched to the side of good, but not before competing in the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament.
11 Chiaotzu Fought Krillin in the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament
Long before the two smallest Z Fighters were friends, they were opponents at the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament. After trading insults before the match, Chiaotzu and Krillin faced off in the ring. Letting fly their Dodon Rays and Kamehamehas, the two warriors seemed fairly evenly matched. Things began to change, however, when Chiaotzu used his hilarious-looking Drill Attack and then his telekinetic powers to twist and damage Krillin's internal organs.
From there, Chiaotzu was ordered telepathically by Master Shen to kill Krillin slowly, but Chiaotzu defied him and attempted to knock Krillin out of the ring. The plan failed, as did Krillin's when Chiaotzu easily floated back to the match after nearly being knocked out of it. The battle finally ended when Krillin realized Chiaotzu had to outstretch his hands and arms to attack (another reference to the Jiang Shi), and so tricked him into doing a math problem on his fingers. Being a cartoon, this ploy works perfectly, as Krillin is able to knock Chiaotzu out of the ring, further infuriating Master Shen.
10 He Used His Psychic Powers to Fix Matches
While Chiaotzu often used his psychic abilities to help his friends and fight evil, he wasn't always so altruistic. Back in his darker days, Chiaotzu was often called upon to use his special powers to help his master and fellow students cheat. During the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament, Master Shen commanded Chiaotzu to rearrange the fights so the Turtle and Crane students would face each other earlier. Chiaotzu did so, setting up his own fight with Krillin. Just like when he refused to kill Krillin with his mental powers, however, Chiaotzu wasn’t always willing to follow his master’s orders.
During Tien’s battle against Goku, Shen ordered Chiaotzu to paralyze the young Saiyan. He did so, allowing Tien to attack him undeterred for awhile. When Tien learned what was happening, however, he ordered Chiaotzu to stop it and even let Goku return the beating he received. Following this, Shen told Chiaotzu to kill both Goku and Tien, but Chiaotzu naturally refused. Shen then attempted to kill Chiaotzu, but Roshi stepped in and blasted Shen out of the stadium. Though they didn’t immediately join Roshi, these events began Tien and Chiaotzu’s move to the side of good.
9 He’s Had Some Memorable Video Game Appearances
Even more than manga, shows, and films, there have been a lot of Dragon Ball video games. Though a number of them have helped expand the lore of the series, they all offer players a chance to fight using their favorite characters from across the franchise. As one of the main Z Fighters, Chiaotzu has featured in most of the games, displaying a number of his signature moves and psychic powers.
Across the dozens of games related to Dragon Ball, Chiaotzu has been a supporting character, a playable one, and even a boss in both Dragon Ball 3: Gokuden and Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure. He also gets some amazing fusions thanks to the fan-favorite Dragon Ball Fusions game.
Unsurprisingly, he can combine with Tien to create Chiaohan, but his other two fusions are actually against enemies. There’s his fusion with a Saibaman, called Chiaoman (seen above), and then Chiaoldo, his partnership with Ginyu Force member Guldo, who he once defeated. Though we’ve yet to see any of them in the anime or manga, we’re still holding out for an entire series based on hilarious fusions.
8 Chiaotzu Was Killed by Piccolo
For those who began watching Dragon Ball Z without seeing its predecessor, the status of Piccolo can be a bit confusing. In fact, even those who have viewed the whole saga may still scratch their heads from time to time. Back in Dragon Ball, Piccolo was actually King Piccolo, the Demon King. He served as a great plague on the Earth, killing untold people and sowing chaos with his legion of spawned warriors. Eventually, he sired one final version of himself who would eventually merge with fellow Namekian Kami, himself the positive version of Piccolo, to create the more heroic character we know and love. Before that happened, however, he killed a number of the Z Fighters.
Kicking off the King Piccolo Saga, the Namekian killed Krillin, instigating Roshi, Tien, and Chiaotzu to go looking for the Dragon Balls. Following Chiaotzu’s bullet-stopping, however, Roshi is also killed by Piccolo during the master’s final effort to stop him. Piccolo is able to summon the dragon Shenron, but Chiaotzu attempts to intervene and make a wish. Instead, Piccolo kills him before he can finish speaking, makes his wish of eternal youth, and kills Shenron. Luckily, death never lasts long in the world of Dragon Ball, and Shenron along with Roshi and Chiaotzu are eventually revived.
7 He Fought The Cybernetically-Enhanced Brother of His Former Master
As much as the title above implies a sci-fi soap opera, it’s actually part of the long story of Chiaotzu and Tien and their former life with Master Shen. Interestingly, Chiaotzu is once again asked to fix the order of the matches during the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament. This time, however, it’s by Tien. By this point in the series, Chiaotzu and Tien were on the side of Roshi and Goku, and were attempting not to fight each other. Chiaotzu’s actual opponent, though, proves to be much more dangerous than anyone assumed.
Mercenary Tao, the younger brother of Master Shen, was every bit as ruthless as his brother and was eventually defeated by Goku. Though many thought him to be dead, he was actually cybernetically rebuilt by his brother to be stronger than ever. Using his new strength, he entered the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament, where he faced off against Chiaotzu. Despite the young warrior's strength, he was brutally beaten by Cyborg Tao and left for dead. Sadly, this was just one of the many defeats Chiaotzu would face from severely over-powered opponents.
6 Chiaotzu Once Again Needlessly Sacrificed Himself
While Chiaotzu may have survived his encounter with Tao, the fight happened shortly after being brought back to life following his death at the hands of King Piccolo. In a preview of his place in the new Dragon Ball Z universe, Chiaotzu would soon suffer yet another life-ending defeat. Just like when he was killed by the evil Namekian, his second death came from him fruitlessly trying to sacrifice his life against a stronger opponent.
Following Goku’s death and the arrival of the Saiyans Vegeta and Nappa, the Z Fighters are clearly outmatched. Not only do a few Saibamen nearly defeat them and actually kill Yamcha, but the Saiyans themselves prove more than the warriors of Earth can handle. In a last ditch effort to take them out, Chiaotzu latches onto Nappa’s back and psychically says goodbye to Tien (calling him “Mr. Tien” in some of the dubs). He then self-destructs, but it proves pointless as Nappa simply laughs it off, horrifying the remaining Z Fighters and establishing the new status quo of the anime.
5 He Helped Defeat The Deceased Ginyu Force
Long before Chiaotzu was fusing with Ginyu Force member Guldo in Dragon Ball Fusions, he was defeating the toad-like alien in the afterlife. Following Chiaotzu’s death at Nappa's hands, he joined Tien, Piccolo, and Yamcha as they journeyed along Snake Way to get to King Kai’s house in the Other World so that they could train with the legendary master. Though they just missed Goku, who had recently been reincarnated by the Dragon Balls, they still had their share of adventures.
Thanks to King Kai’s orb, they were able to watch the events of the Frieza Saga unfold. As such, they were more than aware of the Ginyu Force and the threat they posed. That’s why they were shocked when the group showed up at King Kai’s place looking for a fight. Luckily, the dead Z Fighters finally got a win as they handily defeated the Ginyu Force, with Chiaotzu single-handedly taking out Guldo using his Drill and Psychic Attacks.
4 Chiaotzu Can Copy Moves After Seeing Them
Aside from a ghost-white face and a funny outfit, Chiaotzu and Marvel villain Taskmaster actually have something else in common: they can copy any move they see. In the comics, this makes Taskmaster one of the best fighters there is, and one of the strongest S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. In the world of Dragon Ball, it’s equally as useful. The power of Mimicry is first seen when Goku uses it to copy Master Roshi’s Kamehameha. From there, it’s on display as everyone from Frieza to Tien (who also learns the Kamehameha this way after seeing Yamcha employ it) uses Mimicry to gain an edge in combat.
Chiaotzu actually displays this technique in his battle against the Saiyans. After watching a Saibaman self-destruct to kill Yamcha, Chiaotzu morbidly copies the technique to use against Nappa. Sadly, the results vary wildly. Still, along with his Dodon Rays and psychic moves, Mimicry is one of the most powerful weapons in Chiaotzu’s arsenal.
3 He Has A Small Cameo In The Naruto Manga
Aside from the Jiang Shi, one of the biggest inspirations for Chiaotzu comes from Journey to the West. The seminal folk tale has inspired a number of works, but much of what Toriyama based Dragon Ball on comes from the story. While Goku’s characterization strongly mirrors protagonist Sun Wukong, Chiaotzu had a looser basis. In the story, Wukong encounters Nezha, a massive white-skinned baby god who’s friends with a three-eyed deity. It’s fitting then that just as Journey influenced Toriyama, his Dragon Ball series inspired a whole new generation of artists.
Chief among those who picked up a pen after reading Dragon Ball is Masashi Kishimoto, creator of the widely popular Naruto series. While Kishimoto has stated many times how much Toriyama influenced him, he’s also paid tribute to the artist’s creations in his own work. Though it’s a small cameo, a mask of Chiaotzu’s face can be seen on the wall in Naruto #150. It’s a passing moment, but shows just how much Dragon Ball is part of the manga zeitgeist. Hopefully, we’ll someday see a full-on Dragon Ball/Naruto crossover.
2 Chiaotzu’s Favorite Dish Is Tien
Although this isn't an indication of a secret love affair between Chiaotzu and Tien, it does highlight some of the silliness present in Akira Toriyama’s series. According to the Dragon Ball: Super Exciting Guide, Chiaotzu’s favorite food is tenshindon. Like J.K. Rowling, Toriyama was a huge fan of puns and wordplay, mostly displayed through his character names. Tien Shinhan, for example, is a play on "tenshindon," a Chinese-Japanese hybrid dish made up of a crab omelet over rice. Having it be Chiaotzu’s favorite food is of course a play on his friendship with Tien, making this a truly well-hidden Easter egg.
Chiaotzu’s name, meanwhile, is a pun based on dumplings, which are known as jiaozi in Chinese. By using Chinese words and dishes, Toriyama was able to further obscure the origins, even for his native Japanese audiences. For English speakers, they end up being even harder to suss out, making it that much more amusing when the truth is revealed.
1 What Chiaotzu’s Been Up To Since Dragon Ball Z
While the franchise has had less and less time for its non-Saiyan characters over the years, they’re still around. Occasionally, they pop back up to help save the Earth, but many of them are off doing their own thing. Following his resurrection, Chiaotzu and Tien go off to the mountains to train, something they end up doing a lot of in the years to come. They return during the Cell Saga briefly, but mostly sit out the action against the Androids as new fighters like Future Trunks far outclass them. In fact, Tien actually joins the fight, but ends up leaving Chiaotzu behind, seemingly forgetting all the skills the little guy possesses.
During some filler episodes, we mostly see Chiaotzu hanging out at Kame House with Roshi, Oolong, and Puar, where he cooks for those left out of the fighting. Sadly, the rest of his appearances are mostly cameos. He gets killed with most of the planet during Kid Buu’s destruction of Earth, but gets revived for a third time. Later, he attends Mr. Satan’s banquet and then Bulma’s birthday. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get up to much in both the manga and anime aside from that.
It’s a real shame, given his unique abilities and how much power he demonstrated early on in the series. Perhaps there’s still a future where humans (or vampires) like Chiaotzu get some more time in the spotlight. Maybe that will be our wish if we ever get the Dragon Balls.
What are some of your favorite things about Chiaotzu and Dragon Ball? Let us know in the comments.