I first went to China in 1999 to study Mandarin for a month. I was driven by serendipity, I just wanted to study a foreign language in a class and somehow found this opportunity on the internet.
During my first month I lived in a hotel. My room had a television in it and I was immediately drawn to watching a drama about a renegade Shaolin monk called Fang Shi Yu (方世玉). Fang Shi Yu actually existed, though the drama bore about as much relation to history as the average Robin Hood film does to the real Robin of Loxley.
What drew me to the drama was the wonderful sense of energy, of colour, of humour. The play was visually beautiful, wonderful costumes and amazing locations. Later when I started to take acting jobs myself I found that mostly this energy and colour and humour was reflected in the lives of the film makers, who travel around China living in cheap hotels, using local people as extras.
I wrote about some of my first impressions of Chinese drama here