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K.T. Khang, c.1949

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Khang Kiat Tien or Kang Kedian (1895–1987)

By Bruce W. Lo

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Bruce W. Lo is the ESDA assistant editor for the Chinese Union Mission.

First Published: August 5, 2020

Khang Kiat Tien (pinyin Kang Kedian 康克典),1 also in some Adventist literature as KT Khang or KT Khng, was a pioneer Chinese evangelist best remembered as the author of several books on tracing Christian and Biblical concepts in Chinese written characters.

Early Years

Born in Singapore October 28, 1895, Khang Kiat Tien’s ancestry was from Xiaoping (曉平), Guangdong, China.2 Many of his friends knew him by his alias Kang Chong Heng (Kang Zhongxing康中興). He was the eldest child in the family of Kang Mu Shun (康木順father) and Lin Dai (林代mother), who were farmers from Xiaoping.3

Khang was a Catholic by birth and completed his Senior Cambridge Certificate at St. Joseph Institute, a Catholic School in Singapore.4 He was a capable student and was awarded a first prize of $75 by the Institute. After graduating in 1913, he decided to cut away his long Manchurian queue, a hair style adopted by many Chinese males during the Xing Dynasty, and became one of the new generation of Chinese youth. He was employed by the Singapore government as an accountant in their finance office with a handsome salary of $80 per month, above the average earnings of many young graduates.5 He first learned about the biblical Sabbath through an evangelistic meeting and was later guided by a Seventh-day Adventist couple, Mr. and Mrs. Chen Shuming (陳樹明), resulting in Khang accepting the Adventist faith. Unable to keep the Sabbath, he decided to give up his well-paid government job. Those were difficult days, but he remained faithful.6

In 1915, on the recommendation of Mrs. Chen Shuming, Khang went to Shanghai San Yu College7 at Ningguo Road (寧國路), Shanghai, to study Chinese. Because of his good knowledge of English, he was employed by the school as a translator, working together with the husband and wife team of Li Chuangmao (李創錨). They helped each other and became great friends. It was at the school that Khang met Liao Teck Sing (pinyin Liao Dexin廖德新), who was from Xinhui, Guangdong (廣東新會) born October 25, 1894. At that time Liao was the women preceptress at the Shanghai San Yu College. The two married June 7, 1916 and began a life-long partnership in church ministry. Together they had eleven children, of which eight lived to adulthood.8

In 1917 K. T. Khang was appointed an assistant evangelist in the Chaozhou-Shantou (Teochew-Swatou潮州-汕頭) district. In 1918 he was sent to Mei Hua School in Gulangyu, Xiamen, Fujian to teach for two years. In 1920 he moved to Nanning, Guangxi (廣西南寧) for evangelistic work. In 1921 he returned to Guangzhou, Guangdong, to assist Pastors A. L. Ham and J. P. Anderson in the Canton Mission office there.9

Administrative Responsibilities

1932 marked the year when K. T. Khang entered administrative work. That year he was appointed the president of the Shantou Mission. The mission headquarters was at a beautiful small town called Hou Chetou (火車頭) in the Shantou district. At the time Shantou only had an elementary school. As he traveled throughout the mission district, Khang recognized the importance of nurturing youth in the Adventist faith. With the help of two local teachers, Huang Changhua (黃昌華) and Lin Shouyu (林守愚), he was able to start a new secondary school for Adventist youth in the Shantou Mission. Students were encouraged to do colporteur work by selling Signs of the Times and other religious literature. When students completed their studies at Shantou, they were encouraged to go to Canton Training School to continue their education. When the military activities of the Sino-Japanese war got close to Shantou in 1940, K. T. Khang took his wife, children, and mother-in-law with him to Hong Kong and stayed at the South China Sam Yuk Training Institute at Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong. When Hong Kong was also invaded by Japan in 1941, he again moved the entire family to Huizhou (Waichow 惠州).10

In 1942, after his mother-in-law died, Khang was appointed president of the Hakka Mission (客家區會) and vice president of the South China Union Mission. As the war continued to ravage the land, church members were scattered.11 His daughter Shaofang Kang (康紹芳) recalled an experience while her family was in Huizhou:

I remember this experience while we were in Huizhou which demonstrated the Christian love that father showed towards other people. At that time, we lived in a small house but had a relatively large family of 11 members (8 children, mum and dad and grandma). One of the church friends who just lost his father, had even a smaller house. They were looking for somewhere to place the body before the funeral. No one wanted to help because Chinese believed that it is bad luck to have a dead body in one’s own home. Dad agreed to allow the friend to put the body in our small house and conduct the funeral for him. This instance made a strong impression in my mind.12

After the Second World War, K.T. Khang was invited to join China Training Institute at Qaotou Zhen (Chiaotoutseng 橋頭鎮) in Nanjiang as a teacher and the men’s preceptor. He remained in that post for two years, 1947-1948. When the new government was firmly established in mainland China, he returned to Hong Kong in 1949.13

Move to Southeast Asia

In 1950 Khang was invited to pastor the Singapore Chinese Church in the Malaysian Mission. It was there he published his best-known book, Genesis and the Chinese, on the correlation between Chinese writing and the Genesis story.14 In 1951 he was invited to become ministerial director of the Southeast Asia Union Mission. In 1952 he joined the theology department of Southeast Asia Union College as a teacher, and also pastored the College Church. From 1952 to 1955, he served as chaplain of Singapore Youngberg Hospital. In 1961, he was reassigned to pastor the Pontian Church (笨珍) in the State of Johor (柔佛洲), Malaysia. He remained in that post until 1966, when he retired.15

Retirement Years

After retirement, K. T. Khang and Mrs. Dexin Liao Khang continued to live in Singapore. Dexin Liao Khang died April 23, 1970 due to illness.

Even during his retirement years, Khang was not idle. He updated his 1950 book and republished it jointly with Ethel Nelson under the new title The Discovery of Genesis.16 In 1982 he visited his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Chen Zimou (陳志謀), in Hong Kong, and his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Xian Yi (冼藝), in Los Angeles. That year he immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, to be with his elder son, Kang Shaodian (康紹典) and Shaodian’s family. On November 24, 1985, K. T. Khang died at the age of 91.17

Khang the Writer

K. T. Khang wrote several books to assist himself in his evangelism. Three of the better-known ones are18 Genesis and The Chinese, Has Christianity Been Hoodwinked?, and A Peculiar People.

Genesis and The Chinese was no doubt the most influential. First printed in Hong Kong in 1950, it was reprinted twice in 1985 and 1994.19 The book analyzed the correlation between traditional Chinese writings and the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis. Khang believed that the ancient pictorial writing of the Chinese language contains memory fragments of the early history of human race as recorded in the Genesis account. Some scholars challenged his assumptions and evidence, but his analysis resonated with many who have some knowledge of the Chinese language and the Genesis story, believing that Khang’s ideas deserve further investigation and research, and that the findings of such efforts can benefit Christians in the area of apologetics and evangelism.20 Authors who have written on the subject matter include Timothy Boyle,21 Richard Broadberry,22 Ginger Chock,23 Ethel R. Nelson, Samuel Wang,24 and Jiang Zhou.25

Particularly worthy of mention is Ethel Nelson, an Adventist missionary pathologist to Thailand who was so inspired by Khang’s apologetic ideas that she decided to extend the research effort that Khang did on Chinese characters. In 1979 she collaborated with Khang to update Genesis and the Chinese, and republished it under the new title, The Discovering of Genesis.26 She continued to publish, either singly or jointly with other authors, many more books on the subject.27 The following is Nelson’s account of how she came to know K.T. Khang, from an interview with Christina Hogan of Adventist Dialogue, around the year 2004:28

About 25 years ago I came across a book entitled Genesis and the Chinese by Pastor Kang. The title brought an instant response within me: There can be no connection! Out of curiosity, I opened and read the book. I discovered that the Chinese characters are pictograms that tell the story of Creation. I began using these to give Bible studies to students in Bangkok. When we came back to the United States, I put it away for three or four years. Then I wrote to Pastor Kang in Singapore, and asked him, “Would you be interested in updating your book and working on another one?” He was very excited, and we worked one year by correspondence. Then I went to visit him in Singapore. The result was Discovery of Genesis (Concordia, 1979).29

While it may not be possible to prove conclusively how Chinese characters had evolved from their original primitive shapes to their modern forms because of the lack of reliable records in time of Chinese prehistory to show how the changes occurred. The ideas developed by Khang, Nelson, et al. do present an interesting connection between the Chinese written language and the biblical stories in Genesis. To most Chinese, Christianity is considered a foreign religion imported from the West. But when they are shown that within their own written language are embedded elements of the stories of Genesis, these Chinese characters can be used as a bridge to understand the Bible and Christianity, and to convince them that Christianity is not just a foreign religion.30

Sources

Boyle, Timothy D. The Gospel Hidden in Chinese Characters. Maitland, FL, U.S.A.: Xulon Press, 2015.

Hogan, Christina. “Dialogue with an Adventist Pathologist and Writer.” Dialogue 9:1 (1997). Accessed April 4, 2019, https://dialogue.adventist.org/317/ethel-nelson-dialogue-with-an-adventist-pathologist-and-writer.

Kang, C. H. and Ethel R. Nelson. The Discovery of Genesis. St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.: Concordia Publishing House, 1979.

Kang, Shaofang (康紹芳). “Khang Kiat Tien.” In Chinese SDA History, Samuel Young, editor, Hong Kong: Chinese Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, 2002 (article in Chinese).

Khang, K. T. Genesis and the Chinese. 1994 edition, Payson, Arizona, U.S.A.: Leaves-Of-Autumn Books Inc. Original edition published in Hong Kong, 1950; reprinted 1985, 1994.

Khng K.T. “The Spirit of the Pioneers.” The China Division Reporter, March 1, 1931.

Lo, Bruce W. N. “Khang Kiat Tien or Kang Kedian 康克典.” In Adventism in China. Accessed June 15, 2019. www.adventisminchina/individual-name/nationals/khangkt.

Nelson, Ethel R. The Beginning of Chinese Characters. Dunlap, TN, U.S.A.: Read Books Publisher, 2001.

Nelson, Ethel R. and Richard E. Broadberry. Mysteries Confucius Couldn’t Solve (孔子未解開的謎). Dunlap, TN, U.S.A.: Read Books Publisher 1986. Alternative name in Kindle edition: Genesis and Mysteries Confucius Couldn’t Solve, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.: Concordia Publishing House, 1994.

Nelson, Ethel R., Richard E. Broadberry, and Ginger Tong Chock. God’s Promise to the Chinese. Dunlap, TN, U.S.A.: Read Books Publisher, 1997.

Nelson, Ethel R., Richard E. Broadberry, and Jiang Zhou. Oracle Bones Speak. Beijing, China: World Knowledge Publishing, 2010. This is a bilingual book in English and Chinese. The third author, Zhou Jiang, adopted many of the concepts from the book, God’s Promise to the Chinese, by the first two authors to this edition. Here is the book reference in Chinese: 甲骨揭秘, 周江绎, 北京: 世界知识出版社, 2010.

Wang, Samuel and Ethel R. Nelson. God and the Ancient Chinese. Dunlap, TN, U.S.A.: Read Books Publisher, 1998.

Wu, Ida F. Kh’ng (康佳麗). “About The Author.” In Khang, K. T., Genesis and the Chinese. 1994 edition, Payson, Arizona, U.S.A.: Leaves of Autumn Books, Inc.

Young, Samuel, editor. "Khang Kiat Tien." In Chinese SDA History. Hong Kong: Chinese Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, 2002.

Notes

  1. “Khang Kiat Tien” is the Romanization of his Chinese name 康克典 in his native dialect, while “Kang Kedian” is the pinyin of his Chinese name in Putonghua, which is the official standard accepted worldwide, including the United States Library of Congress. Therefore, the first spelling “Khang Kiat Tien” is likely to be found in older publications, and the second spelling “Kang Kedian” is more likely to be found in today’s literature.

  2. Shaofang Kang, “Khang Kiat Tien,” in Chinese SDA History, Samuel Young, editor (Hong Kong: Chinese Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, 2002), 549-550 (article in Chinese). According to Ida F. Kh’ng Wu (康佳麗) in her preface “About The Author” to Khang Kiat Tien’s book, Genesis and the Chinese, 1994 Edition, published by Leaves of Autumn books, the birth year of Khang Kiat Tien was 1896. Further communication from Chan Chin-Lee, grandson of Khang Kiat Tien, confirmed that 1895 was the correct year.

  3. Shaofang Kang, “Khang Kiat Tien,” in Chinese SDA History (Hong Kong: Chinese Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, 2002).

  4. Ida F. Kh’ng Wu (康佳麗), “About The Author” in Khang, K. T., Genesis and the Chinese (Payson, Arizona: Leaves of Autumn Books, Inc, 1994).

  5. Shaofang Kang, “Khang Kiat Tien,” in Chinese SDA History (Hong Kong: Chinese Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, 2002).

  6. Ibid.

  7. At that time, it was known as Shanghai San Yu School, later changed to Shanghai San Yu College.

  8. Ida F. Kh’ng Wu (康佳麗), “About The Author” in K. T. Khang, Genesis and the Chinese (Payson, Arizona: Leaves of Autumn Books Inc, 1994).

  9. Shaofang Kang, “Khang Kiat Tien,” in Chinese SDA History (Hong Kong: Chinese Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, 2002).

  10. Ibid.

  11. Ibid.

  12. Ibid.

  13. Ibid

  14. K. T. Khang, Genesis and the Chinese (Payson, Arizona: Leaves of Autumn Books, Inc, 1994). Original edition published in Hong Kong, 1950, reprinted 1984, 1994.

  15. Shaofang Kang, “Khang Kiat Tienm, Chinese SDA History (Hong Kong: Chinese Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, 2002).

  16. C. H. Kang and Ethel R. Nelson, The Discovery of Genesis (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1979).

  17. Shaofang Kang, “Khang Kiat Tien,” Chinese SDA History (Hong Kong: Chinese Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, 2002).

  18. Bruce W. N. Lo, “Khang Kiat Tien or Kang Kedian 康克典 in Adventism in China, accessed June 15, 2019, www.adventisminchina/individual-name/nationals/khangkt.

  19. K. T. Khang, Genesis and the Chinese (Payson, Arizona: Leaves of Autumn Books, Inc, 1994). Original edition published in Hong Kong, 1950.

  20. Paul A. Zimmerman, “Forward” in Kang, C. H. and Nelson, Ethel R. The Discovery of Genesis (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1979).

  21. Timothy D. Boyle, The Gospel Hidden in Chinese Characters (Xulon Press, 2015).

  22. Ethel R. Nelson and Richard E. Broadberry, Mysteries Confucius Couldn’t Solve; Nelson, Ethel R., Broadberry, Richard E., and Chock, Ginger Tong, God’s Promise to the Chinese; Nelson, Ethel R., Broadberry, Richard E, and Zhou, Jiang, Oracle Bones Speak.

  23. Ethel R. Nelson, Richard E. Broadberry, and Ginger Tong Chock, God’s Promise to the Chinese (Dunlap, TN: Read Books Publisher, 1997).

  24. Samuel Wang and Ethel R. Nelson, God and the Ancient Chinese (Dunlap, TN: Read Books Publisher, 1998).

  25. Ethel R. Nelson, Richard E. Broadberry, and Jiang Zhou, Oracle Bones Speak (Beijing, China: World Knowledge Publishing, 2010).

  26. C. H. Kang and Ethel R. Nelson, The Discovery of Genesis (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1979).

  27. Ethel R. Nelson, The Beginning of Chinese Characters; Nelson, Ethel R. and Broadberry, Richard E, Mysteries Confucius Couldn’t Solve; Ethel R. Nelson, Richard E. Broadberry, and Ginger Tong Chock, God’s Promise to the Chinese; Nelson et al., Oracle Bones Speak; Wang, Samuel and Nelson, Ethel R., God and the Ancient Chinese.

  28. Christina Hogan, “Dialogue with an Adventist Pathologist and Writer,” Dialogue 9:1 (1997), 19. Accessed April 4, 2019, https://dialogue.adventist.org/317/ethel-nelson-dialogue-with-an-adventist-pathologist-and-writer.

  29. C. H. Kang and Ethel R. Nelson, The Discovery of Genesis St. Louis, MO (Concordia Publishing House, 1979).

  30. Ethel Nelson reported that when Discovery of Genesis was used as a way to introduce Christianity to the people of Taiwan, they responded positively to it. She said, “as a result, 25 of the 153 Chinese professionals, including medical doctors and engineers, gave their lives to Jesus.” Nelson further said, “Evangelists in Japan and Korea are also interested in this . . . because they use many of these same Chinese characters in their own language”. Statements made during the interview with Hogan, Christina, “Dialogue with an Adventist Pathologist and Writer,” Dialogue 9:1 (1997), 18-19.

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Lo, Bruce W. "Khang Kiat Tien or Kang Kedian (1895–1987)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. August 05, 2020. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B8GC.

Lo, Bruce W. "Khang Kiat Tien or Kang Kedian (1895–1987)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. August 05, 2020. Date of access May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B8GC.

Lo, Bruce W. (2020, August 05). Khang Kiat Tien or Kang Kedian (1895–1987). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B8GC.