Who are the San-Ti Ren in 3 Body Problem? Why Do They Want to Invade the Earth?

In Netflix’s ‘3 Body Problem,’ a complex tale is created for the audience, which is bound to confuse the viewers at every turn. Each episode brings a new earth-shattering revelation, but each secret revealed also allows the whole picture to come to light. For the protagonists of the story, it is after playing a game that is uncannily similar to real life that the truth about the San-Ti is revealed. This marks a significant step for humans to understand the new challenge, but it also opens the door to understanding something they’ve never seen before. And it all begins with the San-Ti. Who are they, and what do they want from the Earth? SPOILERS AHEAD

San-Ti are the Alien Race Closest to the Humans

Before the characters in ‘3 Body Problem’ discover the existence of aliens and the threat they pose to humanity, they are introduced to the 3 Body Problem game. At first, the purpose and the endgame of the game aren’t clear. It takes a couple of tries for the players to become familiar with the world (which they believe is imaginary) in front of them. The first level requires them to crack the unpredictable pattern of the Chaotic and the Stable Eras. It is only when they realize that they are in a trisolar system that they move on to the next level.

Identifying the presence of the three suns is important not just for playing the game but also for understanding the world that the aliens live in. This is also where the name San-Ti Ren comes from. In Mandarin Chinese, San translates to three, Ti translates to body, and Ren translates to people/person. So, San-Ti Ren’s literal translation gives you Three-Body People. The three bodies referred to here are, clearly, the three suns of the planet on which the aliens live.

So far, it is unclear what the San-Ti (called Trisolarans in the novel by Liu Cixin) look like. They present themselves as human-looking while interacting with humans because they know their true forms would be too much for humans to handle. They also take human form because the familiarity of the body structure allows the players to feel more comfortable and trust the San-Ti more easily. If they see an alien in their actual form, it would be easy for them to other the aliens and see them as a threat. But in the form of humans, San-Ti are just like humans and hence trustworthy. It’s like the angels or demons (depending on how you look) taking human form to be more acceptable to the human eye.

Considering that they have found a way to not just connect to humans but even to control some of them, it is safe to assume that their technological advancements are off the charts. Despite having the disadvantage of having their civilizations decimated by the Chaotic Eras and the phenomenon of syzygy, the San-Ti are quick to evolve and have found ways to manipulate sub-atomic particles, something that humans can only dream of. But if they are already so powerful on their planet, why do they need Earth?

The San-Ti Ren are Looking For a New Home

While the San-Ti may be quick and smart, nothing can save them from the celestial phenomenon that is bound to be the end of them someday. Jin and Jack witness the syzygy in the game and realize just how destructive it is. But that was just a glimpse of the real danger the San-Ti faced. The syzygy in the game destroys things only on the surface. However, there is bound to come a time when the level of syzygy increases or when one or more of the three suns passes by too close to the planet. Gravity, in that case, will work its magic and try to pull the planet towards one or more of the three suns.

When this happens, no technological advancement will be able to save the San-Ti. There is no way they can fight the gravity of the three suns. For all their inventions and whatnot, they will be completely useless while they watch their own planet being eaten away once and for all. This destruction would mean the destruction of San-Ti and leave no room for any Stable or Chaotic eras. If the planet doesn’t exist, how will its people?

Knowing that there is no answer to the 3 Body Problem and there is no way they can save themselves from syzygy, the San-Ti know that they must find another, more favorable home for themselves. This leads them to launch an interstellar fleet in search of new planets with intelligent life, and that’s when they come across the signal from the Earth, discovering that the home they are looking for is much closer than they’d imagined. Why wouldn’t they want to invade it and make it their own?

Read More: The Character of Follower in 3 Body Problem, Explained