Tucci, Giuseppe

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TUCCI, GIUSEPPE (18941984), Italian scholar of Asian religions. Giuseppe Tucci was born in Macerata in the Marche region of Italy on June 5, 1894, and died on April 5, 1984, in his house in San Polo dei Cavalieri, near Tivoli, in the province of Rome. Tucci fought during World War I, and after the war he graduated from the University of Rome (1919). From 1925 to 1930 he resided in India, teaching Chinese and Italian at the universities of Santiniketan and Calcutta. In 1929 Tucci was elected to the Accademia d'Italia, and in 1930 he accepted the chair of the department of Chinese language and literature at the Istituto Universitario Orientale of Naples. He then accepted the chair of the department of religion and philosophy of India and the Far East at the University of Rome (1932), where he remained until his retirement in 1969.

In 1933 he was instrumental in the founding of the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente (IsMEO), the first president of which was Tucci's colleague and friend Giovanni Gentile. Tucci himself was president of the institute from 1947 to 1978; from 1979 he was its honorary pres-ident.

He was the editor of several periodicals, including Alle fonti delle religioni from 1921 to 1924, Bollettino del'IsMEO (which became Asiatica in 1935) from 1933 to 1943, Le scienze del mistero e il mistero delle scienze in 1946, and East and West from 1950 to 1984. He founded many series of scholarly publications of the IsMEO, such as the "Serie Orientale Roma" (the first fifty-two volumes of which he edited) in 1950, "Reports and Memoirs" (documenting research) in 1962, and "Restoration" in 1969. From 1950 to 1973 he directed the series "Il nuovo Ramusio," published by the Libreria dello Stato. He edited many other works meant to diffuse and popularize knowledge about Asian civilizations.

Tucci's scholarly research was complemented by his field explorationshe was, perhaps, the last of the great explorersas well as by his impassioned interest in the contemporary Asian world. The six years he spent in India were fundamental in his life, as were his eight expeditions to Tibet (19291948), his six expeditions to Nepal (19501954), and his missions of exploration to Pakistan (starting in 1955), Afghanistan (1957), and Iran (from 1959); Tucci continued to conduct archaeological research on field explorations such as these until 1976.

The highest honors of the countries of Afghanistan, Japan, India, Indonesia, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, and Thailand were conferred upon Tucci. He received honorary doctorates from many European and Asian universities, including those of Delhi, Kathmandu, and Tehran; he was given various academic and scientific titles in Italy (from the Accademia d'Italia, the Accademia delle Scienze of Turin, the Accademia of San Luca, and the Società Geografica Italiana), in Austria (from the Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften), in France (from the Société Asiatique), in Germany (from the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut), in Japan (from the Imperial Academy and the Tōyō Bunko), in India (from the Asiatic Society of Calcutta and Vishvabharati University of Santiniketan), and in England (from the British Academy and the Royal Asiatic Society).

Tucci received many international prizes, including the gold medal of the Calcutta Art Society (1965), the Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal (1971), the medal for archaeology of the Academy of Architecture of Paris (1972), the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding (1976), and the Balzan Prize for History (1979). The Jawaharlal Nehru Award was always especially dear to Tucci because of his friendship with Nehru and his ties with great figures of modern India such as Rabindranath Tagore, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and Mohandas K. Gandhi.

The entire Indian subcontinent and Tibet were the main areas of Tucci's interest as a scholar and explorer. A complete bibliography of his works contains 360 titles, including many dozens of books, about two hundred articles, numerous encyclopedia entries, reviews, and so on. His research actively touched on many fields other than Indian and Tibetan studies, however, and he focused especially on the study of religious and philosophical thought and on historical investigation. His interest in the latter field led him to study the archaeology of Hindukush and Iran; this study was also inspired by his perennial interest in the various points of encounter of the great Asian civilizations of the Himalayan regions, Northwest India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

He undertook his studies of China primarily during the first stage of his scholary activity in works such as Scritti di Mencio (1921), Storia della filosofia cinese antica (1922), and Saggezza cinese (1926). At any rate, the most important object of his studies was Buddhism in the various forms it had taken as it expanded from India toward Tibet, Central Asia, China, and the Far East. Tucci interpreted Buddhism as the highest form of Asian humanism. Always in search of universal values in a humanistic perspective, Tucci felt that the history of Asia was closely interconnected with that of Europe, and he thus always considered Eurasia to be a single continent in cultural as well as geographical terms.

His most important scholarly works are Linee di una storia del materialismo indiano, 2 vols. (19231929); Indo-Tibetica, 6 vols. (19321941); Tibetan Painted Scrolls, 2 vols. (1949); Teoria e pratica del Mandala (1949); The Tombs of the Tibetan Kings (1950); Minor Buddhist Texts, 2 vols. (19561958); The Religions of Tibet (1970); The Ancient Civilization of Transhimalaya (1973); and On Swāt: The Dards and Connected Problems (1977).

Endowed with vast humanistic knowledge and intensely interested in religious and philosophical thought, Tucci possessed great erudition, extraordinary knowledge of languages, and philological skill. He knew Sanskrit and Tibetan in depth, and also had significant knowledge of Chinese and Pali (and other Indian languages). Nevertheless, he did not disdain the public at large, to whom he addressed many works, among which are Santi e briganti nel Tibet ignoto (1937), Forme dello spirito asiatico (1940), Asia religiosa (1946), Tra giungle e pagode (1953), To Lhasa and Beyond (1956), The Discovery of the Mallas (1962), La via dello Swat (1963), Il trono di diamante (1967), Tibet, Land of Snows (1967), and Rati-Līlā (1969).

Many of Tucci's minor writings are collected (partially revised by him) in his Opera Minora (1971) published by the Oriental School of the University of Rome. The Istituto Universitario Orientale of Naples dedicated two volumes of Asian studies to him titled Gururājamañjarikā: Studi in onore di Giuseppe Tucci (1974), and the IsMEO published an international collection of Asian studies in three volumes dedicated to Tucci's memory, titled Orientalia Iosephi Tucci Memoriae Dicata (19851988).


On May 7, 1984, the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente solemnly commemorated its founder with the publication of my Giuseppe Tucci (Rome, 1984); an English version of this work, accompanied by an updated bibliography of Tucci's writings, appeared under the title "Giuseppe Tucci" in East and West, n.s. 3 (1984): 1112 and 2342. A year after Tucci's death, the institute published Ricordo di Giuseppe Tucci (Rome, 1985) by Raniero Gnoli with contributions from Luciano Petech, F. Scialpi, and G. Galluppi Vallauri; this work includes a biographical note, a discussion of Tucci's cursus honorum and his scholarly concerns, and a bibliography.

Short commemorative notices have been published in various scientific reviews, including S. Cleuziou's in Universalia 1984 (the annual supplement of the Encyclopaedia Universalis ), pp. 614615; P. Corradini's in Mondo cinese 45 (1984): 101105; Mircea Eliade's in History of Religions 24 (1984): 157159; K. Enoki's in Tohogaku 68 (1984): 127154; Luciano Petech's in the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 7 (1984): 137142; B. J. Staviskij's in Narody Azii i Afriki 1 (1985): 213214; M. Taddei's in AIUON 44 (1984): 699704; and R. Tamburello's in Il Giappone 24 (1984): 211213.

A special commemorative issue (no. 2) of India Past and Present: A Biannual Journal of Historical Research (Bombay, 1985), is dedicated to Tucci and contains (pp. 311) an editorial on his life and work. Corrado Pensa's study "L'occidente e le religioni orientali nella prospettiva di Giuseppe Tucci," in Paramita: Quaderni di Buddhismo 16 (1985): 1925, deals with the West in relation to Eastern religions following the perspective of Giuseppe Tucci.

New Sources

Melasecchi, Beniamino, ed. Giuseppe Tucci nel centenario della nascita. Rome, 1995.

Tucci, Giuseppe. On Swat: Historical and Archaeological Notes. Rome, 1997.

Gherardo Gnoli (1987)

Translated from Italian by Rodica Blumenfeld-Diaconescu
Revised Bibliography