Character Description
Tien Shinhan first made his appearance in Dragonball as a student of the Crane Hermit. He started as the rival for Goku during the early tournaments seeing as the rivalry between Crane and Turtle schools had gone on for years. As the years progress, Tien became closer to Goku and they were friends and fellow students during the events of the King Piccolo Saga.
Progressing into Dragonball Z, Tien became one of the stronger ones among the Z Fighters.
 Dragonball Z
After hearing of Goku's death and that two Saiyans will arrive on Earth in one year, Tien trains in preparation for that day, even training on Kami's Lookout alongside Krillin, Yamcha and Chaotzu. Soon the day arrives that the Saiyans land, so the 4 of them meet up with Piccolo and Gohan to face them. The two Saiyans, Nappa and Vegeta, propose that the 6 of them fight against their 6 Saibamen. The Z Fighters accept the offer, as they want to buy as much time as possible until Goku arrives. Despite this, Yamcha is killed in the battle and they are soon forced to take on Nappa. It becomes obvious quickly that Nappa is incredibly strong, Tien even loses an arm in the battle, and as things look bleak Chaotzu attempts to kill him by blowing himself up using a self-destruct attack. However Nappa survives this relatively unharmed. Filled with the rage at the loss of his best friend, Tien follows in his example and uses one of his most deadly attacks. The attack uses up all of Tien's life energy, after the attack Tien watches as Nappa is still living having survived the attack and Tien dies through exhaustion.
Namek, Captain Ginyu, & Frieza Sagas
Tien spends the majority of this Saga on King Kai's planet at the end of Snake Way, along with Chaotzu, Yamcha and Piccolo. While there they train with King Kai and are kept informed of the progress being made on Planet Namek. When the time comes for wishes to be made and only one can be brought back this time, Tien decides to wait until later to be brought back so that he can be revived at the same time as Chaotzu. Eventually their turn comes and the two of them are brought back to life.
Garlic Jr., Trunks, & Android Sagas
The Z Fighters gather in an abandoned section of the mountains, all sensing that Frieza is approaching Earth. But before any of them can react a mysterious youth appears out of no where and challenges Frieza, and his father King Cold alone, even turning into a Super Saiyan. After the battle, the youth tells of a future to come and three years of training follows for Tien. Three years come and go, and the day finally arrives that the Androids are supposed to appear. Goku and all the others gather by the city the youth mentioned. They wait and soon the time they were supposed to attack comes and passes, confused at first, they soon realize they can't sense the Androids because they are machinery and, as such, have no life energy. Forced to search the hard way, the group split up and search the city for the androids. It's Yamcha who finds them first and signals to the others, but by the time they reach him he has been badly injured. Goku tells Gohan to take Yamcha to get healed. Gohan does as he is told and soon returns back to the group, where Goku is taking on Android 19, but Goku seems to be struggling despite seeming to have the upper hand earlier. Gohan realizes that the disease Trunks warned about must be affecting Goku, and as Goku drops out of Super Saiyan and is at the mercy of #19 it is then that Vegeta makes his presence known. Vegeta steps in and takes on #19 himself, also showing his new Super Saiyan skill, Yamcha then takes Goku back home to recieve the medicine Trunks left with him. Vegeta easily disposes of #19 but #20 escapes before they can destroy him. Vegeta, Gohan, Krillin and Tien head after #20 and follow him into a range of mountains. Eventually they find him, and this time Piccolo takes him on alone and overpowers him with ease. It's then that the Trunks, the boy from the future appears and also Bulma, in a hovercar. #20 takes the opportunity to attack Bulma's car and provide himself with a distraction to escape. Trunks, after explaining who he really is, also tells the others that the two androids they have been fighting are not the ones from his future, so the group head after #20 again, who Bulma informs is Dr Gero. They come across Dr Gero's lab, where he has activated 2 more androids, #17 and #18. The newly released androids kills Dr Gero and destroy most of the lab, then take on the Z Fighters. Before then, the two Androids released a third Android, Android 16. Insisting on a one-on-one, Vegeta takes on #18 alone, but despite his new Super Saiyan skills he is soon beaten, recieving terrible injuries. The androids take off, leaving the Z Fighters to go their own ways and rethink what to do.
Imperfect & Perfect Cell & Cell Games Sagas
After departing from the others Tien and Yamcha head back to Master Roshi's. Later they are able to sense Piccolo's energy and realize he must be fighting one of the Androids, but as Piccolo's energy suddenly disappears Tien goes to see if he can help. He arrives to find Piccolo unconscious and Android #17 already absorbed. Tien tells Androids #16 and #18 to escape and to leave him to deal with Cell, knowing that things will become worse if Cell were to absorb #18. Tien manages to keep Cell at bay and let the two Androids escape by using one of his powerful moves. While it doesn't damage Cell, it prevents him from chasing after the androids, but the ki consumption for this move begins to take it's toll, and Tien passes out. When he awakes Tien learns that Cell has become Perfect by absorbing Android #18 and how they have 10 days to train to fight Cell at his Cell Games. In preparation for this, Piccolo spends a day training in the Room of Spirit and Time. Finally the day for the Cell Games arrives and they all gather to fight Cell. Goku fights him first but he gives up part the way through the fight, insisting that Gohan is stronger than him and should fight instead. Gohan is unsure about this but agrees to fight and initially doesn't seem to be making much progress. Cell is disappointed in this and wonders why Goku sent out Gohan to fight him as he was expecting a better fight. Gohan explains that when he gets angry he unlocks strength, so Cell decides to release Cell Jrs and attack Goku, Vegeta and the others in an attempt to make Gohan angry. Despite all this it doesn't seem to be enough to push Gohan over the edge, even when he realizes everyone there but Trunks has died once before and as such, can't be revived again. Android #16, who also joined the others to fight Cell makes an attempt to destroy Cell by self destructing himself. But unknown to him, his bomb was removed by Bulma so his plan was a failure. Cell then destroys #16 himself, smashing him to pieces. #16's head remains intact and he talks to Gohan, telling him it's okay to get angry, if he's fighting for good. Cell gets irritated by #16's noise and smashes his head, totally destroying him, this is what sends Gohan into a rage, pushing him over the edge and transforming him into a Super Saiyan 2. In his transformed state he is easily a match for Cell, even begins to toy with him despite Goku and the others asking for him to finish Cell. This leads to Gohan's downfall, as Cell realizes he cannot win he decides to make a desperate move - self destruct, an explosion powerful enough to destroy the whole planet. There's nothing Gohan can do and as he despairs at his mistake Goku steps in, telling Gohan he did well, then teleported himself and Cell away, sacrificing himself to save them all. Goku teleported to King Kai's planet and apologizes to King Kai saying he couldn't think of anywhere else to go. Naturally, King Kai is annoyed at Goku for killing them and their souls drift along Snake Way. They soon realize that Cell isn't with them, and that he has survived. Much to their horror they watch the battle offering Gohan encouragement and support until he beats Cell. Later, as everyone on Earth is wishing back to life those that were killed by Cell, Goku refuses the offer to come back, saying that he feels trouble follows him and Earth would be safer. With a wish left over Krillin asks that the bombs in Androids #17 and #18 are deactivated. Tien leaves the group once again to meet up with Chiaotzu and once again continue his training.
Majin Buu & Kid Buu Sagas
Tien is not seen very much throughout this Saga, not attending the Tournament as he was training with Chiaotzu and wasn't able to be reached by the others. However, he does play his small part by coming to Goku's aid when he was fighting against Buu who had just absorbed Gotenks, Piccolo and Gohan. However, he is knocked unconscious by Buu and dies with everyone else when Buu blows up the planet. Of course, he is brought back to life later by Vegeta's wish and offers up his energy to help make the Spirit Bomb. After the defeat of Buu, Tien returns once again to his training.