An Account of Tibet: The Travels of Ippolito Desideri 1712-1727

Item Code: NAC985
Publisher: Rupa Publication Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Filippo De Filippi
Edition: 2005
ISBN: 8129107775
Pages: 560 (20 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 Inch X 5.5 Inch
Weight 610 gm
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Book Description
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Written more than 250 years ago, this record of father Ippolito Desideri’s stay in Tibet extending over a period of fiver years provides the first accurate general description of Tibet in all its particulars the flora, products of the soil the inhabitants and their special customs the constitution of the family, the nuptial and funerary rites the social organization and finally a complete exposition of Lamaism derived from the author’s study of the canonical books and their commentaries and from a daily and familiar intercourse with the doctors of lamiasm and the life of the Lamaseries made possible by his knowledge of the Tibetan Language.

Divided into four books the work describes the author’s journey of three and a half years from Rome to Lhasa and his mission work there the nature character, customs and civil government of Tibet Tibetan religion and its hierarchy and his return by a different route to Europe and of other missions in which he was engaged from some time.

Born at Pistoia in 1684 Ippolito desideri took the habbit of St Ignatius of Loyola in Rome and was ordained on 28 August 1712. on 27 September of the same year he left Rome for India as Apostolic Missionary. On 4 November 1727 he returned from India in charge of various commissions for the holy see. He passed way on 14th April 1733 aged forty eight.


The foundation of the first catholic mission in Tibet dates from 1625 father Antonio de Andrade being its founder.

It was a rumour constantly cropping up in mogor that the unknown and inaccessible regions beyond the Himalaya mountains sheltered Christian communities the scattered remains of evangelization in centuries long past. Father Antonio Monserrate had heard of them from travelling Jogis as early as the eighties of the sixteenth century and in 1602 they had been the occasion of Bento de Goes journey.

As reports of a similar nature had not ceased to come in what could be more natural then a wish to inquire on the spot and in case the rumours should prove to be true a desire to assist those neglected brethren of the faith? Even in 1599 when the negotiations that eventually led to the dispatch of goes were being conducted the Italian father Antonio Mazzavelli had volunteered to be the first worker in this new field. But circumstances had been unfavorable.

Quite unexpectedly there now presented itself an opportunity for a journey into the heart of the Himalaya mountains and thence into Tibet. On 30th March 1624 Father de Andrade, together with brother Manuel marquis had left Agra to follow the great Mogul on his journey to Kashmir. Arriving at Delhi he learned that a large party of Hindus were about to start on a pilgrimage to a famous temple in the mountains at a distance of about two and a half months’ journey from Agra. Here was an opportunity These pilgrims might serve for protection and guidance in the first part of the journey meditated. On the morning fixed for the departure, Andrade, his companion, and two servants joined the caravan. A Hindu disguise, in which even the Delhi Christians failed to recognize him, was to see him through the first difficulties.

Travelling by the shortest route, probably through the valley of Ganges by Hardwar, “the Gate of Vishnu,” the principal shrine of those northern parts, the caravan passed through Srinagar in Garhwal and reached Badrinath, one 61 the most sacred and most frequented Hindu temples of India. An account of the adventures and discoveries during the first part of this journey lies outside the scope of this chapter, and we will only record that Andrade and his companion negotiated the perilous Mana pass at an altitude of 18,390 feet, and in the beginning of August safely arrived at Chaparangue or Tsaparang, the capital of what was then the kingdom of Guge, in the valley of the Langtchen-Kamba, or Upper Sutlej.

The arrival of the stranger caused no slight commotion. At first, the king, unable to believe that a man, not a trader, could undertake such a journey, was somewhat displeased, but after the first interview at which the missionary explained the reason of his coming, both he and the queen showed themselves quite pleased. A religious conviction prompting such deeds of daring did not fail to impress him. Andrade availed himself of this favorable disposition to further the object of his journey of exploration. He became aware that there were no forlorn Christians to be assisted, but a new mission field might be opened among the pagan population of these remote regions. The following document bears witness to the success with which he carried through these initial negotiations. It was given in writing under the king’s seal when probably in the last week of August Andrade was allowed to leave under promise of a speedy return.

We the king of the kingdoms of Potente rejoicing at the arrival in our lands of Padre Antonio Franguim to teach us a holy law take him for our Chief Lama and give him full authority to teach the holy law to our people. We shall not allow that anyone molest him in his and we shall issue orders that he be given a site and all the help needed to build a house of prayer. Moreover we shall give no credence to any malicious accusations of the moors against the Padres because we know that as they have no law they oppose those who follow the truth. We earnestly desire the great Padre to send us at once the said Padre Antonio that he may be of assistance to our peoples.


Introduction: The Jesuit Mission in Tibet 1625-1721 by C. Wessels, S.J 1
Preface by the Editor33
Historical Sketch of Thibet: and an account of the mission and travels in that country by father Ippolito Desideri of the society of Jesus written by Himself 1712-1733 49
Foreword by the author 51
Describing the Journey from Rome to Lhasa Capital of Third Thibet and my mission there 53
Chapter IDeparture from Rome and journey to Lisbon 55
Chapter IIVoyage from Lisbon to off the cape of Good Hope57
Chapter IIIVoyage to Mozambique and to goa60
Chapter IVJourney from Goa to the City of Delly Capital of the Empire of Mogol63
Chapter VConcerning the churches and Christina congregation of the society of Jesus in Delly and of some notable Christians living in that city69
Chapter VIResidence in Agra and Some account of the Mission belonging to the society of Jesus in that city 74
Chapter VIIDeparture from Delly Arrival and Residence at Kascimir77
Chapter VIIIOur Departure from Kascimir and journey to Lhata capital of Second Thibet.82
Chapter IXOf our stay in Lhata capital of Second Thibt and our arrival at Trescij Khang87
Chapter XJourney across the great desert of Ngnari Giongar and Assistance rendered by a tartar princes and her followers91
Chapter XIArrival at the first inhabited place in third and greatest Thibet. Continuation of the journey to the capital. Visits to the king and the ministers commencement of my mission in that kingdom. 100
Chapter XIIProtection given by the king to the author who in his turn assists him and the prime Minister in time of peril. Their expressions of gratitude their gifts refused105
Chapter XIIIThe first book written by the author in the Thibettan language is solemmly presented to the king in a public audience 109
Chapter XIVDescribes the contents of the Thibetan books and the errors of the Thibettan people113
Chapter XVDealing with other books written by the author in the Thibettan language117
Chapter XVIAn Account of the Mission founded in Thibet by the Society of Jesus from the Beginning until the author left Thibet120
Book the Second
Containing an account of the country customs and civil government of Thibet127
Chapter IThe Boundaries and site of Great Thibet129
Chapter II Climate and Fertility of Thibet133
Chapter III of the Musk deer and other animals in Thibet137
Chapter IV Of the rivers in Thibet and of the Boats and Bridges140
Chapter VOf the western part of Thibet and some of its provinces and cities 142
Chapter VIOf the City of Lhasa Capital of Thibet and of its Surroundings147
Chapter VII Of the Country round Lhasa and the central Provinces of this Thibet153
Chapter VIII Of Other Central Provinces of Thibet156
Chapter IXHow the Kingdom of Thibet fell into the Hands of the Tartars162
Chapter X Of the Revolution which broke out in Thibet before it was conquered from the tartars by the Chinese166
Chapter XI Of the Tragic End of King Cinghes Khang and of his family175
Chapter XIIHow the Kingdom of Thibet passed from the tartar to the Chinese Dominion183
Chapter XIIIAbout the Civil Government of Thibet190
Chapter XIVDescribing the Clothes and flood of the Thibettans197
Chapter XVConcerning the letters and alphabet of the Thibettan Language and the Proficiency of the Thibettans in Learning and the arts203
Chapter XVIOf the Phsical Charactersitics of the Thibettans their occupations and games and how they cultivate the soil207
Chapter XVIIConcerning Thibettan weddings212
Chapter XVIIIHow the Thibettans dispose of their dead216
Book The Third
Describing the false and peculiar religion prevailing in Thibet219
Chapter IConcerning the grand Lama head of the Thibettan Religion221
Chapter IIReasons why this alleged Incarnation of the Grand Lama Must be a work of the devil225
Chapter IIIContinuation of the Argument as to whether the deceit mentioned in the last chapter be a fraud committed by men and not by the devil227
Chapter IVContaining further details about the Grand Lama and the other inferior Lamas of Thibet228
Chapter VAbout the Thibettan Monks and Nuns their monasteries Convents, dress, Organization and Habits234
Chapter VIConcerning the various kinds of Religious order in Thibet244
Chapter VIIOf the Errors and the religion of the Thibettans and an account of the system of Metempsychosis or the Pythagorean transmigration as explained and believed by them250
Chapter VIIIConcerning Thibettan ideas about Animals certain beings called Itaa and their conception of hell257
Chapter IXRelating other beliefs and arguments of the Thibettans concerning their system of Metempsychosis264
Chapter XOf the Colossal and principal error of the Thibettan sect in denying that there is any absolute uncreate being or any primary cause of existing things272
Chapter XIWhether the Thibettans whiel denying the existence of a true god recognize some fabulous deity or are devoid of any knowledge of a god278
Chapter XIIConcerning three classes of objects which the thibettans worship and invoke without admitting that they are in any way divine280
Chapter XIIIOf the Thibettan religion with regard to Morality virtue and vice and rules of conduct285
Chapter XIVConcerning the Thibettan legislator and of some of the fables told about him289
Chapter XVConcerning Cen-ree-zij and Urghien two other Idols worshipped by the Thiettans294
Chapter XVIRelating the Continuation of the story of Urghien300
Chapter XVIIHow Thibet anciently had no laws and how the king Tri kiogh teu zen sent embassies to various countries and a chosen body of youths to Hindustan in search of a religion 306
Chapter XVIIIHow the false religion was brought to Thibet. The first temple erected in the Kingdom Books translated Monasteries founded and every art used to disseminate that error310
Chapter XIXOf other minor objects vernerated and worshipped by the Thibettans321
Chapter XXOf the Principal places revered by the Thibettans and their observance of prescribed rites their rosary and fasts327
Chapter XXIAn Answer to some doubts and queries about matters treated in foregoing chapters 336
Chapter XXIISome Authors who have described thibet and criticism of their works339
Book the Fourth
How the Mission Departed from Lhasa and returned to Europe after visiting other missions345
Chapter IDeparture from Lhasa and residence at kutti, arrival in Nepal after crossing the boundry of Thibet347
Chapter IIContaining a short account of the Kingdom of Nepal 351
Chapter IIIDescribing the Journey from Nepal to the Ganges and the city of Pattna358
Chapter IVContaining a description of the city of Pattna363
Chapter VJourney from Pattna to Agra, Description of Benares and elahbaas on the ganges. Residence in Agra366
Chapter VIHow I took charge of the Mission at delly capital of the Mogol Empire369
Chapter VIIIn Which are explained the circumstances leading to a renewal of the struggle between the emperor of Mogol and his vazir Nezameme Muluk371
Chapter VIIIContaining a description of the strife between the emperor and the nobles of his court371
Chapter IXDeparture from Delly and return to Pattna Voyage to Sciandernagor and thence to Pondiscery373
Chapter XDescription of Pondiscery I am appointed to the Mission of carnat376
Chapter XIDescription of the Mission Successfully organized by the society of Jesus in the Kingdom of Carnat 378
Chapter XIIDeparture from the Carnat Mission. Some account of Meliapur and the two traditions regarding St. Thomas the apostle description of the city of Madrasta381
Chapter XIIIDeparture from India for Europe. How fell dangerously ill on Board and was saved by the intercession of the venerable father Giovanni de britto385
Chapter XIVContinutation of the voyage after passing the cape of good hope. Isles of St. Helena and ascension arrival at the Isle of Martinique in South America. Arrival at port louis in Lower Brittany387
Chapter XVJourney from Port Louis to Paris and from Paris to Marseillies 389
Chapter XVIVoyage from marselles to Genoa and Pistola. Short stay in Tuscany my arrival in rome and the end of my journey391
Appendix; Report on Tibet and its routs by Emanowl Freyre S.J.395
Notes to Introduction by C. Wessles S.J413
Notes to Book the First427
Notes to Book the Second443
Notes to Book the Third478
Notes to Book the Fourth502
Bibliography index of the works quoted 509
Bibliography of Desideri523
General Index529
Index of Tibetan words541
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