Bingham Dai Papers and Book Collection

The Bingham Dai Papers and Book Collection reflects the life and work of Dr. Bingham Dai, one of the first native-born Chinese to be trained in the new 20th-century theories of psychiatry and psychology.

About the Collection

Dr. Dai’s personal papers are a manuscript collection consisting of six series. Highlights of the collection are biographical materials and photographs, copies of Dr. Dai’s articles, and a series of letters between Dr. Dai and his wife, Vivian, during their years of separation prior to World War II.

Dr. Dai’s professional library contains over 1,500 titles. The library is weighted heavily towards books on psychology and psychiatry, eastern philosophy and religion (mainly Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist texts), and sociology and social policy.

About Dr. Bingham Dai

Dr. Dai was born in Gutian, Fujian Province, China in 1899. In 1929 he travelled to the United States and entered the University of Chicago where he obtained an M.A. in 1932 and a Ph.D. in 1937.

In 1935 he returned to China and joined the faculty of the Peiping Union Medical College, also known as Peking Union Medical College at one time. As a teacher and practitioner of psychotherapy, Dr. Dai began to develop his unique theories and procedures for treating patients through what he called self-study. This method combined traditional Confucian and Taoist principles with modern psychological theories, producing a course of treatment that enabled patients to understand themselves and the causes of their illnesses. With this self-knowledge patients were empowered to find comfort, hope, and health.

Due to the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, Dai was forced to send Vivian, his Chinese-American wife, pregnant with their first child, back to the United States. In 1939 with the Japanese advancing on Peking, Dai was forced to leave also. Eventually, with the help of his American professional colleagues, he secured a teaching position at Duke University where he continued to develop his theories and methods of psychotherapy until his retirement in 1969. Dr. Dai and Vivian moved to Spruce Pine where he lectured at nearby Appalachian State University and provided clinical training to the staff of several regional mental health centers. He died in 1996 at the age of 97.

Following his death, Vivian and Dr. Dai’s daughter Meiling donated his library and papers to Appalachian State University where they are maintained in the Belk Library’s Special Collections.

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