Pai Mei was a legendary master of the Bak Mei and Eagle's Claw styles of kung fu. He was the teacher of Bill, Elle Driver, and Beatrix Kiddo, and was responsible for the removal of Elle's right eye. He taught Beatrix the fatal movement known as the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique and the Three Inch Punch. Pai Mei was poisoned by Elle, as revenge for snatching out her eye.
Pai Mei was cruel and domineering in his teaching. Punishing and chastising his students, he often sought to humble them early on and was especially merciless if he caught any defiance in their demeanor. By his own testimony, he kills at will and so Pai Mei himself expresses visible surprise when those aware of that fact display before him even signs of insolence in response to his behavior, taking it as if that person has a death wish when approaching Pai Mei in the first place.
Despite his vicious demeanor and moments of aggressive preaching, Pai Mei was rather an open-minded individual. After seeing Beatrix's tenacity in her training; one could say, he came to like her as a student and cared for her. Evidence can be gathered from when he threw her food onto the ground in a fit of rage and then offered her his own food afterwards while explaining to her that eating rice with one’s own hands instead of using the proper utensils (chopsticks) was similar to how a dog or animal would eat; although coming off as harsh, Pai Mei wished for Beatrix not to degrade herself and lower her standards due to hunger. Even though it was seemingly a meaningless and overzealous lesson, it can be said that that Pai Mei’s goals were to ultimately build Beatrix’s character from the ground up. His ultimate gift to her was when he taught her the Five-Point-Palm Exploding Heart Technique, a technique he has not taught a single student before her, but due to Beatrix’s ferocity and commitment to meeting her master’s expectations and trusting in him, he taught her this technique which ended up aiding her in defeating Bill.
Back in 1003 (one-double [n]aught-three) in China, as Pai Mei was traveling down a road, a Shaolin monk crossed paths with him. Pai Mei gave a slight nod to the monk, who did not return it. Although the motives of the monk remain unknown, whether it was an insult or a misunderstanding, Pai Mei tracked him down at the Shaolin Temple. He demanded that the head Abbot kill himself as a means of retribution, but the Abbot refused. Consequently, Pai Mei single-handedly massacred all 60 of the monks residing in the temple.
Pai Mei was at first the master of Bill. He taught him the style of kung fu known as Bak Mei. During his training, Bill learned that Pai Mei hated "Caucasians", Americans, and the Japanese, in addition to being contemptuous of women.
Pai Mei was approached by Bill, who asked if he would teach Beatrix the secrets of kung fu. Precipitated by a disagreement of unknown subject matter, Bill and Pai Mei had a brief fight, after which Pai Mei accepted Beatrix as his new pupil.
After Beatrix entered his garden and training area, Pai Mei decried her Mandarin as "lousy," in addition to lambasting her for being a woman. After asking what skills she possessed, Pai Mei ordered her to demonstrate them. He then ordered her to go to the rack of Jians and withdraw one, challenging that if she could land a single blow against him, he would bow to her and call her master.
Beatrix engaged him, but Pai Mei successfully dodged all of her attacks without difficulty. During the fight, Pai Mei disarmed Beatrix and told her that she had shown nothing to him so far.
He then asked her to show him her Tiger Crane style martial arts. As the fight resumed, Beatrix was still unable to hit Pai Mei, who blocked and dodged all of her attacks. After she was knocked to the ground, Beatrix tried to use a rock to strike him. Aware of what she was doing, Pai Mei grabbed her arm and twisted it behind her back.
In pain, Beatrix admitted that Pai Mei was superior and acknowledged her subservience. Satisfied, Pai Mei told her that her training would begin the next day.
Pai Mei started Beatrix's training; whether it was carrying water buckets up a stony staircase, using the Three inch punch to break a block of wood or performing the Bak Mei moves.
Pai Mei also taught Beatrix manners; as was shown, during dinner, Beatrix's found it very hard to eat white rice with chopsticks (as her hand was severely hurt from hitting wood), so she attempted to eat with her hands. Annoyed, Pai Mei threw the bowl to the floor, commenting that if she wanted to be treated as a human, she ought to eat like one. He then gave her another bowl and told her to try again.
Eventually, Beatrix progressed in her training so much that she managed to do what almost no-one (man or woman) had managed to do before: she gained Pai Mei's respect and approval, so much so that he decided to teach her his most coveted and dangerous move, the Five-Point-Palm Exploding Heart Technique, which she would later use to kill Bill. All of this was beyond impressive, especially since Pai Mei had vowed never to teach anybody the move.
Elle's training and death
Elle Driver became Pai Mei's next student once Beatrix finished her training and Elle is responsible for his murder
During one session, Elle called Pai Mei a "miserable old fool," a statement that triggered Pai Mei's fury, which resulted in Elle losing her right eye. From that day forward, Elle harbored a powerful hatred of Pai Mei.
On one night Elle carries out her revenge on Pai Mei by poisoning his fish heads. As Pai Mei was dying, he said, "Elle, you treacherous dog . . . I give you my word . . . " Elle stood above him, laughing; she said to him "To me, the word of an old fool like you is worth less than nothing." She then contemptuously kicked him to the ground and watched him die, cursing her to his last breath.
Years later, Elle revealed what she had done to Beatrix, taunting her over having murdered her mentor. Enraged, Beatrix attacked Elle and, in a tribute to Pai Mei, plucked out and crushed Elle's remaining eye as vengeance.
Beatrix's revenge against the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad was based on Pai Mei's training. She ordered the surviving members of the Crazy 88 to leave behind the limbs they had lost as those lost limbs belonged to Beatrix. The arm that Beatrix used to blind Elle was the arm that Pai Mei stated belonged to him after Beatrix lost her first training fight, thus fulfilling Pai Mei's vengeance on Elle.
- Master Martial Artist: Pai Mei's martial arts skills were beyond human capacity. According to legend, he was able to kill 60 Shaolin monks single-handedly. He evidently beat up the expertly trained Bill and easily defeated the highly proficient Beatrix. He was the creator and master of the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique. He easily tore out an eye from Elle, who was herself very formidable. He was so skilled that the only way anyone was able to kill him was through deception.
- Superhuman Speed, Agility, Dexterity: Pai Mei was easily able to dodge Beatrix's furiously swift sword strikes, balance himself perfectly on the flat of her blade and effortlessly throw her sword perfectly onto a rack without looking. He was also able to generate enough force to punch holes in solid wood from only three inches away.
- Extended Longevity: Pai Mei was said to have been born before the year 1000 and lived, seemingly in perfect health, all the way to the year 2003; he would presumably have lived even longer had he not been poisoned.
- The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.
- The Three Inch Punch.
- He is played by Gordon Liu, who played Johnny Mo in the first film.
- The first version of the script had Pai Mei's lips speaking Cantonese while Quentin Tarantino dubs his voice in English. This was ultimately decided against due to bad results, and Mei's dialogue was not dubbed.
- Pai Mei's 3 inch punch is a reference to Bruce Lee's 3 inch knockout punch.
- David Carradine claimed to have misread or misspoken the year of Pai Mei's birth.
- Pai Mei's age is an exaggeration, it is common for legendary and mythical rulers and characters to have exaggerated ages and abilities in Chinese stories. Although he appeared physically fit and healthy, Pai Mei wouldn't have sustained his life so extraordinarily on a limited diet of rice and fish heads.
- Pai Mei got his revenge against Elle when Kiddo blinded her using the same arm that Pai Mei said that he now "owned" after defeating Kiddo in their first fight.
- Pai Mei was based on the historical legend of Bak Mei.