Reality television is not known for its portrayal of virtue. And Yau-Man Chan is not someone you might expect to progress to the final four on Survivor: Fiji, the 14th season of the reality television show that is famous, and sometimes infamous, for its stark portrayals of human strength and weakness. Chan, a 54-year-old computer engineer with a love of table tennis, surprised fellow contestants with his intelligence, wit, creativity, stamina and inner and outer strength. But beyond these game-winning traits, Chan became an unusual and compelling figure among viewers by displaying the virtues of humility, generosity, friendship and honesty—what Aristotle might have called the art of living well. The Century talked with Chan about how he became a popular-culture icon.
Why and how did you decide to participate in Survivor: Fiji?