Daniel K.T. Cheung is from Hong Kong. He is currently studying philosophy at Indiana University in Bloomington where he is a member of the Graduate Student Fellowship. He has a passion to present the Gospel as intellectually viable and coherent. InterVarsity interviewed him recently.
How did you become a Christian?
I was admitted to a Christian high school in Hong Kong in 1984 (there are many Christian high schools in Hong Kong). The school was very serious in delivering the gospel to the students. Very soon I became a Christian after learning the gospel in 1985. Back then, I was too young to think in a sophisticated way. I just found it convincing and felt an urge to be a Christian. From then on, I went to the church founded by the teachers from the school, until 1996 when the fundamentalist and paternalistic tendency of that church became a big trouble to me. This departure is also related to my experience in campus fellowship and my aspiration to be a Christian scholar.
I understand you founded an IFES chapter at your college in Hong Kong. How did you accomplish that?
In 1991 I was one of the founders of the campus Christian fellowship at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. I was the President of the fellowship for two and a half years. Since the education there takes three years, unlike the colleges in the States, I virtually spent all of my college life leading the Christian fellowship. It is technically wrong to say that that fellowship was an IFES chapter. The IFES staff in my first year, Gideon Yung, who is now the Regional Director of IFES in South East Asia, told me that IFES would let us set up a student organization by ourselves and IFES would provide assistance only on request. I managed to establish the fellowship successfully and asked for little help. So, a closer tie with IFES in Hong Kong was not established until two or three years later after the fellowship was founded.
I understand that you have done translation work into Chinese. Do you have any problem conveying ideas from one language to another?
I have translated four books since 1999. I have also been translating articles from Leadership University for the web. I don’t think I’m a good translator, as I had no formal training in it. I am indebted to the editor who let me try to do the first book. I am good at getting the concepts and meanings accurate, which is important when the originals have some academic elements in it, but my Chinese is not particularly beautiful, so to speak. One problem I encounter is that some academic writings contain a lot of concepts and terms that do not have corresponding notions or standard translation in Chinese. Also, there are different expressions for the same ideas in the Chinese language used by people in the Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The difference is like that between British English and American English, which are not yet different languages. I was told by a Christian publisher in the States that, when their books are translated into Chinese language, Chinese from another region said that they are hard to read.
You once met Alec Hill. How did that come about?
I contacted Alec Hill about a year before he became president of IVCF, with questions about the translation of his book Just Business [published in Chinese by China Alliance Press of Hong Kong]. It happened that he was planning a trip to South East Asia, including Hong Kong, to talk on Christian business ethics. I told this to the people of IFES in Hong Kong. The Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF) in Hong Kong was just starting a marketplace ministry. The result was GCF became a co-organizer of Alec’s seminars in Hong Kong. I also had a chance to meet him personally when he was in Hong Kong. You may go to my personal homepage and find near the bottom a picture of Alec and me. Besides that are the pictures of the covers of his Just Business and of its translation (mind that the web page is written in Chinese).
How did you choose to study philosophy? What do you anticipate doing when you graduate?
I studied business in my undergraduate. Yet, due to my involvement in the Christian fellowship, I took a number of evening courses from some seminaries in Hong Kong at the same time. In 1994, Dr Kai-Man Kwan graduated from Oxford with PhD in philosophical theology and returned to Hong Kong. He worked in IFES there and gave a series of talks. From those courses and talks, I came to appreciate the importance of being a Chinese Christian scholar in theology and/or philosophy. After working in business for two years, I applied for graduate schools in Hong Kong to study philosophy. It was first an MA program and after that I was admitted to another university for an MPhil program (a research master program in British system) in philosophy, under the supervision of Dr. Kwan, who was teaching there after working for a few years in IFES. After that master program, I came to Indiana University for a PhD in philosophy.
I anticipate I will be a professor at a university somewhere after I graduate. Since my “ministry to Chinese” is mainly in the form of publishing Chinese Christian books, maintaining a website, and integration of philosophy and the faith in my research, the geographical location is not very important to me. After all, it is hard for graduate students nowadays to know where they would end up in after graduation.