He may have the name of a real person, but since the character is only barely based on the real "Hundred Eyes," it's not totally clear if the Marco Polo: Hundred Eyes special will be historically accurate. It seems that Hundred Eyes' backstory will be invented for the show instead of being taken from history. According to the book A Brief History of Khubilai Khan, the real Hundred Eyes was a military general, not a monk and kung fu master. And since the Netflix special seems to be focused on finding out where and how Hundred Eyes gained his skills as a martial artist and how he lost his sight, two things that have no relationship to the real historical figure, it doesn't seem like the real life of Bayan of the Baarin will be where Hundred Eyes chooses to take its story.
However, that doesn't mean that the show will totally throw history away — it will probably continue to be addressed the way it is on the show now. Marco Polo has always paid tribute to the reality behind its story, even as it adds things like romance and close friendship where they've never been confirmed to exist. So even though Hundred Eyes and Marco Polo were not super tight best buddies in real life, he was one of the people Polo wrote about, according to The Biography of Bayan of the Bārin in The Yüan Shih. Similarly, the show has hinted at a dark past between Hundred Eyes and Kublai Khan, and suggested that Khan is the reason why he had his eyes taken out.
In real life, the two had a far less dramatic relationship — Over time, Khan advanced Bayan's position in the Mongolian army to Supreme General, according to A Brief History of Khubilai Khan, which also states that Bayan was Khan's "ablest commander in the field."
On the show, their friendship represented more metaphorically as the mutual respect between the general and the Taoist monk. But in the past, their rocky relationship will be blood spattered — Marco Polo already established that the show version of Hundred Eyes killed 25 of Khan's men in some kind of dispute.
Another thing Marco Polo loves is using the tradition of Chinese kung fu movies as inspiration for Hundred Eyes' fight scenes. He fights and trains Marco Polo in the Wu Tang (or Wudang) style, and seeing him learn those masterful mantis moves will surely have references to not just the real martial arts style, but the type of stunt and camerawork common in martial arts films.
While One Hundred Eyes won't be a super-faithful historical retelling of the story of the real Hundred Eyes, Bayan of the Baarin, it should be a fun original story to tribute one of the show's best characters — and fill him in from just the trope of a wise old sage and show who Li Jinbao actually is.
Image: Phil Bray/Netflix