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Daniel S. and Jane Balderston Dye Papers

Call Number: RG 22
Scope and Contents

These papers provide valuable documentation regarding West China. Substantive letters refer to the social and political scene in the Chengdu (Chengtu) area, as well as providing biographical information regarding the Dyes and a thorough account of their educational mission work at West China Union University. These papers complement in a useful way the official files of West China Union University found in YDSL Record Group No. 11, Archives of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia. Daniel Dye was also a friend and colleague of Thomas Torrance, whose papers are available in YDSL Record Group No. 16.

The papers include unique documentation of patterns and designs used in West China latticework, woven belts, and pottery. Drawings of hundreds of different patterns recorded by Dye and his artistic assistants are available in the collection. Dye spent many years in analyzing the origins and symbolism of the patterns which he collected. He was unable to complete the scholarly work which he hoped to produce on this subject, but his explanations and theories are available for appraisal in myriad drafts.

The Dye Papers are also valuable for the thorough documentation they provide regarding the life of a successful woman missionary. Jane Balderston Dye, married but childless, found herself in ideal circumstances to be effective in a university teaching career, to travel broadly, to assist her husband in his scholarly pursuits, and to pursue her own avocation of the study of birds in West China.

The correspondence in Series I consists primarily of letters written by Dan and Jane Dye to their families in the United States. For many years they wrote long, descriptive letters to their "home folks" every week. Beginning shortly before their marriage in 1919, Dan and Jane alternated weeks writing to both families. The correspondence becomes less frequent and more condensed during the 1930s and 1940s. During the early part of 1927, Jane was evacuated to Shanghai due to political unrest in West China. The months of separation, before Dan joined her in Shanghai, provide the only correspondence between Jane and Dan (1927 Feb-Apr.)

Series II consists of published writings by Dan and Jane Dye, unpublished essays by Dan, and extensive notes and reflective drafts by Dan for his anticipated work Swastica Sinica: The Pattern of Patterns of the Far East. These notes and drafts were written primarily during the period from Dan's retirement in 1950 until his death in 1977. Eleanor Hough wrote in her biographical memoir about Dan: "We know that DSD found writing very difficult, hence the dozens and dozens of repetitions of the same material. The fact that he never seemed to arrive at a satisfactory and complete statement of any of the segments of his research was a combination of advancing years and his realization that his conclusions might be denounced by those he admired and respected." The categories used to organize the notes and drafts follow the arrangement made prior to their donation to the Divinity Library. The drawings of designs included in this Series represent hours of painstaking effort to accurately record the lattice and belt designs discovered by Dye during his travels throughout West China and Tibet. The drawings have been transferred from their original folders into acid-free folders, and any notations on the old folders have been transferred to the new. There does not seem to be any particular order to or classification of the designs.

Series III, Personal Items and Memorabilia, includes biographical documentation regarding the Dyes, and an interesting collection of photographs and slides. The photographs and slides provide valuable illustration of Western missionaries in West China and of the costumes, artwork, architecture, and landscapes of West China.

The Addendum represented by Series IV was received from the estate of J. Calvin Bright, a colleague of the Dyes in West China. It includes correspondence and writings of Daniel and Jane Balderston Dye that are very similar to the materials in Series I and II. It is not clear why these materials were in the possession of Bright.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Nancy Balderston Conrad and Herbert E. Sloan, 1990. Addendum gift of estate of J. Calvin Bright, 1999.

  1. I. Correspondence, 1908-1987
  2. II. Writings and Notes, 1907-1977
  3. III. Personal Items and Memorabilia, 1905-1977, n.d.
  4. IV. Addendum
8 Linear Feet (19 boxes + 1 oversize portfolio)
Related Names
Dye, Daniel Sheets, 1888-
Language of Materials