Interfaith Dialogue avant la lettre: Desideri in Tibet, 1716-1721

Collaborative Group

Professor Donald S. Lopez, Professor Thupten Jinpa


Faculty of Religious Studies


The Italian Jesuit missionary Ippolito Desideri (1684-1733) spent five years in Tibet, gaining an extraordinary mastery of the Tibetan language and a detailed understanding of Tibetan Buddhism. Indeed, he should be considered the founder of the field of Tibetan Studies in Europe. Desideri wrote several works in Tibetan; his magnum opus—never translated into a European language— was a refutation of the doctrines of rebirth and emptiness, and quoted extensively from Buddhist scriptures. It is a work of great historical importance but also has particular contemporary significance as a model for a critical but respectful dialogue between religions. The purpose of this project is to produce a complete annotated translation of this forgotten text from Tibetan into English with the two collaborators serving as co-translators.

This will be Jinpa and Lopez’s second collaboration having just completed (with the support of an NEH Collaborative Research Grant) a full translation of the Golden Chronicle (Gser gyi thang ma), the extensive work of the leading Tibetan author of the first half of twentieth century, Gendun Chopel (1903-1951).

Award period: July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012