Prof Charles Kwong Yim-tze has been selected as one of the recipients of the University Grants Committee (UGC) Award for Teaching Excellence 2014.
Receiving the award from UGC Chairman Mr Edward Cheng Wai-sun, SBS, JP at the award ceremony held on 10 September, Prof Kwong said that “this honour is not individual but institutional. Beyond saluting all the nominees, I think less of recognition than of anonymity, for history is made far less by award winners than by unknown doers, faithfully carrying out their duties without ever being recorded. I feel not elevated by this honour, but humbled.”
“Prof Kwong’s dedication and learner-centred approach have been highly regarded by students and colleagues throughout the years. As a professor of Chinese, translation and philosophy, he is at home in all of these disciplines, and could well teach other humanities subjects if called upon to do so. He epitomises the essence and broad-based notion of Lingnan University’s liberal arts education,” said President Leonard K Cheng of Lingnan University.
Prof Kwong has received two Teaching Excellence Awards (2008, 2014) and two Certificates of Merit in teaching (2002, 2012) under Lingnan University’s biennial teaching award scheme. Guided by the question “how best do students learn?” instead of “how best do I teach?”, he teaches with inspiring ardour and surgical objectivity, engaging students in a shared exploration of knowledge that emphasises independent reasoning and critical inquiry. He sees himself as a senior fellow student: “a teacher is a student with a licence. Teaching is not one-way, magisterial instruction, but fostering, interacting and co-learning.”
Beyond pedagogical excellence, Prof Kwong stands in the great tradition of life-transforming teacher-mentors. To him, a humanities teacher must help students develop critical intelligence and the moral, cultural, emotive, aesthetic senses required to act responsibly for the good of society. Teaching is not limited to the classroom; intellectual, spiritual and emotional mentoring is even more enjoyable and valuable, albeit less visible. “A university teacher is not a preacher, but there are times when a drifting spirit or ruffled mind seeks advice in deeper matters of life. Dialogues in the office, walking with students in the January snow – these are among the dearest episodes of my teaching, from the US to Hong Kong,” he said.
Indeed, his students, including many serving tertiary and secondary school teachers, continue to look up to him for guidance and support on academic and personal fronts even after graduation. They see him as “a teacher’s teacher”, “a very convincing role model who practises what he preaches”, “the best teacher and spiritual master” who “changes lives with his life”, a “moving and magnetic” mentor who “inspires in us a lasting desire to cultivate a broader and higher mind, an open, upright attitude to life”.
A Renaissance-type intellectual in the Chinese and Western liberal arts traditions, Prof Kwong read English at HKU and Oxford before studying Chinese literature and philosophy at Yale. He had taught in the US prior to joining Lingnan, where he now holds a triple appointment as Professor of Chinese & Translation and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy. His research areas cover classical Chinese poetry and fiction, comparative literature and poetics, history of ideas and literary translation; his bilingual research includes four books and a wide range of articles.
As a writer, Prof Kwong is one of the best classical Chinese poets today, widely admired for blending classical beauty and modern vitality with profound wisdom. He has published 2,200 poems in 22 collections, and two collections of modern Chinese prose. He has also received multiple research and creative writing competitive grants from government and external bodies, including two Research Grants Council General Research Fund and 13 Hong Kong Arts Development Council grants. He may be said to be the quintessential liberal arts intellectual.