The First Chinese Conference: An Unprecedented International Endeavor

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Vicki Heng Fan Yang

By Vicki Heng Fan Yang, Chinese Translation Team Member, California, United State.

I am a longtime Urantia Book reader who was born in Taiwan in 1947. I moved to the United States in the 1970s, but I return to Taiwan and China often and maintain a good connection there. You could say that I have brought what I’ve learned in the west back to the east, and that includes the fifth epochal revelation.

For many years I have studied and been very active in a spiritual organization called A Course in Light (ACIL). At one point I published an article about The Urantia Book on our website. Richard Zhu saw that article and contacted me. The rest, you could say, is history. I began collaborating with Richard on his Chinese translation in early 2015.

For the past several years I have been sharing quotes from The Urantia Book with ACIL students online. Interest in the book is increasing, so I decided to hold a gathering to further inform them about The Urantia Book and its history. The conference was to be in Taichung, Taiwan. It is a city in the middle of the country. Not only do we have many students in Taichung, people from either the north or south can get there in two hours.

It was scheduled for late March, and we registered over 100 truthseekers, all students of ACIL, who have become interested in adding The Urantia Book to their spiritual repertoire. Sadly, the global pandemic thwarted our plans, causing us to postpone and reschedule as a Zoom gathering in early September.

The logistics of this online meeting were no easy feat. Time zones spanned the globe, from Taiwan in the east, to San Francisco and Chicago in the United States, and as far west as Paris. But we rearranged the agenda to accommodate local times, and through the magic of electronics were able to greet each other face to face. We attracted 102 attendees from Taiwan and 26 more from China.

Our two days were filled with a mixture of Urantia Book–related presentations, interspersed with prayer and meditations. Presentations were given by: Richard Zhu, translator of The Urantia Book into Chinese; Georges Michelson-Dupont, Urantia Foundation Trustee and Manager of Translations; Tamara Strumfeld, executive director of Urantia Foundation; Susanne Kelly of Dallas, Texas, a longtime reader and very good friend; and Meifeng, one of my students from Taiwan, who presented on “Universal Gravity vs. Creating Reality by Belief.”

I now give you the pleasure of hearing directly from several of our esteemed co-presenters.

Difference between Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters
Difference between Traditional
and Simplified
Chinese characters

Richard Zhu

During the planning of this conference, I was invited by Vicki to present some of my translation experiences with the participants. I shared both the methods and the difficulties of accurately translating such unique concepts from the English language into Chinese.

Since I started the translation in partnership with Urantia Foundation, I have put priority on accuracy and loyalty to the original text for the Simplified Chinese version, as I grew up in a Simplified Chinese culture background. Recognizing that the Traditional Chinese version must be edited by people from that background, I began to look for someone to help with this. And that is when I contacted Vicki in 2015 to discuss collaboration on the editing work for the classical Chinese version. She quite willingly accepted my invitation. We both recognized that this book has great importance for the Chinese people, and Vicki joined me in our long-term commitment for the future dissemination of this revelation.

As an example of a unique concept from The Urantia Book, the ascension plan is little known in eastern culture. Most people still hold old beliefs from traditional religions. I presented an overview of the Paradise ascension journey for human beings, hoping that the details would enlighten the participants about their life purposes and beliefs. The highlights included the origin of Paradise, the perfect central universe, the purpose of the mortal ascension plan, the ascension route to Paradise, and the preparations for ascension in the daily life. The feedback was very positive! Some mentioned that this expanded their vision and gave them better explanations about life purposes. They shared that they would spend more time reading this book and living their lives in a more constructive way.

Tamara Strumfeld
Tamara Strumfeld

Tamara Strumfeld

I had the great honor of representing Urantia Foundation and sharing its mission, vision, and values with a group of Chinese students who have discovered The Urantia Book and its teachings. How I wish I could have been there in person! Hopefully we will have that opportunity in the future.

My presentation introduced the audience to historic 533 Diversey, the birthplace of the Urantia Book project. As most readers already know, the Foundation was founded in 1950 as a nonprofit charitable trust. The beautiful greystone building in Chicago was home to Doctors William and Lena Sadler, who were both instrumental in the early days. It was Dr. William who bequeathed the building to the Foundation in 1969. We have been here ever since.

I presented an overview of the board of five trustees, the expanded board of associate trustees, and introduced them to our office staff of three, and several contract workers in the United States and other countries. I also acknowledged with gratitude and appreciation our many volunteers from around the world, all dedicated people working on this project.

Next, I briefly explained what Urantia Foundation does, and the various things we stay busy working on.

1. Publishing The Urantia Book and its translations, both physically and electronically. There are more than 750,000 books in print, 28,000 e-books sold, and 577,436 books downloaded from the Foundation’s website. We are currently working on an Android app that will have the book in eight languages, and we hope to publish that soon, with additional languages in the future.

2. Distributing the books—it’s a worldwide business! Urantia Foundation sells books in as many channels as possible. The English and all printed translations are available in book shops—physical and virtual. We also give books away in places where distribution is not yet available. We have a 24-language website where one can download the book for free, read it online, and use the excellent search engine for study.

3. Translating the book into as many languages as possible. There are currently 24 translations available. When I started working for the Foundation in 2004, there were only 10. Fourteen new languages have been added in 16 years, and there are several more in progress. Besides the one we are celebrating here, the Chinese translation, the others are Arabic, Farsi, and Filipino.

4. Revising the translations—because human efforts always have room for improvement. The Foundation has a detailed process for the revision of each translation. The goal is to have the most accurate translation that is humanly possible. It’s a 40-year (or longer) process from start to finish. The current translations under revision are Spanish and Portuguese.

5. Protecting the text so that it remains intact for future generations. One of the trusts of Urantia Foundation is to preserve the text so that future generations will have it as it was given. Not only do we store copies of the first printing, we have all the text files secured electronically and backed up in several places. All translations are copyrighted to protect and preserve the good work of the translators. This will make sure that no harm comes to Richard Zhu’s work. He has spent many dedicated years on this project. It is important to protect it.

6. Educating through the website, seminars, other educational avenues, and the Urantia Book Internet School (UBIS). UBIS has been facilitating deep study of the book for 20 years, with students from over 75 countries. The courses are free and are offered three times a year in four different languages—English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. There is a nine-year plan to expand the school into many more languages, and the goal is for Chinese to be one of them by 2026.

Our website has an entire section devoted to study with many resources you can peruse and investigate. Another approach to education is through seminars. There have been science symposiums, cultural seminars, workshops on concepts within the book, and spiritual retreats held at 533. Urantia Foundation also partners with other groups on collaborative projects and efforts.

I want to thank Richard Zhu for his service and years of devotion to the Chinese translation project. With more than one billion native speakers of the Chinese language—roughly 16% of the human population—imagine how many people will be reached with the translation!

I also want to acknowledge Vicki Yang for her valuable contributions. Her loving support and professional input are truly making a difference. We will be seeking Vicki’s and Richard's advice on how to best disseminate the translation throughout the Chinese-speaking world.

It is our hope that these teachings will help transform a troubled world, and that they will unite us so that we can all grow together towards light and life.

Suzanne Kelly
Suzanne Kelly

Suzanne Kelly

I have been good friends with Vicki since 1989 when we first met in California. A year later I visited her in Taipei for four months. Vicki was a professional translator, and she asked me to bring her a Bible so she could research Melchizedek. I brought her the Bible, but I also brought along my Urantia Book.

Noting its size, Vicki asked if I would read it aloud to her while she translated, and I enthusiastically agreed. As I read certain paragraphs, she would say, “This is great, but it doesn't translate. Could you please explain it to me another way?” So I did, sometimes two or three times, until it finally made sense to translate. I learned more during those four months in Taipei then I had in three years of studying and reading the book! This foreshadowed what would later evolve into Vicki’s future involvement with the Chinese translation project.

Fast-forward 30 years, when Vicki was approached by Richard Zhu, who had been retained by the Foundation to translate The Urantia Book into Simplified Chinese. Vicki and Richard began working together in 2016 to edit his first draft up to publishing standards.

Things came full circle when Vicki called to invite me to speak at the conference in March of 2020 in Taiwan. Because of the pandemic, the gathering morphed into a Zoom meeting. She told me that many of her students were asking why they should read The Urantia Book. That became the theme of my presentation.

I eagerly set out to gather opinions from students around the world as to why they thought it was important for new students in Taipei and in China to read The Urantia Book. My talk incorporated many of their comments, including:

“You should read The Urantia Book because the soul cries out for its truths. The Chinese peoples have long cherished, uplifted, and upheld the search for truth. The authors of The Urantia Book declare that Lao-tse and Confucius are two of greatest truth teachers in the history of humankind.”

"It simplifies so much that would otherwise be mystifying. And it enlarges and clearly presents the Gospel message that Jesus died sharing . . . verifying there is a God; moreover, that this Deity is actually YOUR, and my, Parent."

"If you are looking at the why and wherefore, the higher purpose and destiny of life, then read The Urantia Book. Understand the purpose, origin, history, and destiny of all human or mortal existence. If you want to know your spiritual destiny, read it.”

This is the message of The Urantia Book for the next age—the ideals that will inspire the next human advance. It is expected of us to be the pioneers of this advance—for us to cross the gap that The Urantia Book bridges into the future, thus establishing the kingdom in our hearts and becoming the seeds for a better society, a society which will be one step nearer the perfection of light and life.

Perhaps one day I will visit Taipei once again—with a copy of the Chinese translation, made possible by the tireless and incredibly dedicated translators who have undertaken this immense and difficult task!

The amazing stability and persistence of Chinese culture is a consequence of the paramount position accorded the family, for civilization is directly dependent on the effective functioning of the family; and in China the family attained a social importance, even a religious significance, approached by few other peoples. 79:8:9 (888.2)

Georges Michelson-Dupont
Georges Michelson-Dupont

Georges Michelson-Dupont

This presentation of the Urantia Revelation to Chinese language students was a milestone event. After nearly 10 years of effort, the results are yielding a bountiful harvest from the fruitful relationship between Richard Zhu, the translator, and Urantia Foundation. The potential of this endeavor should be measured by the fact that more than one billion human beings will soon have access to the Urantia revelation in their native language. By the year 2100, 10 countries will host more than half of the world’s entire population, and one of those speaks Mandarin Chinese.

Vicki had asked me to prepare specific topics to present at the conference. The first was an overview of The Urantia Book, focusing on God's relationship with man. This allowed me to expound on the inescapable divine commandment "be you perfect as God is perfect," which imparts a purpose to every human being. I revealed to these eager students the divine perfection plan, the dwelling of the divine fragment and his contribution, the gift of personality and free will, the mind, the foundation of faith, and the pursuit of higher ideals.

My second talk was about the story of Machiventa Melchizedek and the purpose of his incarnation on Urantia. I presented his teachings, his missionaries, and their influence on Asian countries, especially China. This topic was of particular interest to the Chinese audience because of their familiarity with his influence through Lao-tse and Confucius.

After a 15-minute meditation, I shared how the revelation had changed my life, the personal story of my encounter with it. Each of my segments was followed by 30 minutes of questions and answers. We hope to give more of these presentations in the near future, to encourage and cultivate our budding relationship with Chinese truthseekers. There are still some years to go before the translation will be ready for publication. You can imagine the difficulties, since Richard speaks Simplified Chinese and Vicki speaks Traditional Chinese. But together they are collaborating on a version that will be readable by both communities.

Stay Tuned

An additional day was spent responding to questions from the participants. I am still compiling their extensive feedback. Please watch for a follow-up article in the next issue of News Online.

Urantia Book Chinese Translation Presentation 2020
Urantia Book Chinese Translation Presentation 2020
Urantia Book Chinese Translation Presentation 2020
Urantia Book Chinese Translation Presentation 2020

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