Tucci's Expeditions

India, Tibet, Nepal, Ladakh, Sikkim… and Beyond

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Tibet—[ it ] was, and still is, the greatest love of my life; and the more I burn with this love, the more difficult it seems to satisfy with each visit. In eight trips, I have traveled far and wide, I lived in villages and monasteries, knelt before teachers and sacred images, crossed mountains in caravans and traversed deserts as vast as the sea, and debated issues of religion and philosophy with wise monks.

Giuseppe Tucci (1894-1984) completed eight expeditions in Tibet, hunting for “the works of man”, throughout a period of time ranging from the early trans-himalayan expeditions of 1926 up until 1948, the year he arrived and sojourned briefly in Lhasa.

He carried out five, possibly six, explorations in Nepal (he himself writes sometimes of 5, sometimes of 6), the last of which took place in Mustang in 1954. At the time, these countries were forbidden to foreigners, and yet he managed to visit villages and monasteries and to return with manuscripts, xilographies, statues, thangkas—the Tibetan Buddhist rolls of painted fabric—Bon, Hindu and Buddhist artworks and handicrafts, and archaeological discoveries. He dug up traces of the past and saved them from oblivion and neglect, he discovered lost civilizations like that of the Mallas, in western Nepal, he reconstructed ancient events, and he left for us, with treasures and with photographs, the testimonies and “documents of cultures that are changing and perhaps dying”.

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At the end of nearly thirty years of traveling, walking more than 12,400 miles on the Roof of the World, after crossing and trudging through the Himalayas in every direction and leaving its highest peaks behind me again and again, here the circle comes to a close, almost at the point from which it began, not far from the same lake and the same mountain that once witnessed me (when, wrapped in luminous transparency, they appeared before me for the first time) unknowingly kneeling together with other pilgrims.

In the book, Il Duce’s Explorer: The Adventures of Giuseppe Tucci and Italian Policy in the Orient from Mussolini to Andreotti: With the Correspondence of Giulio Andreotti, the story of Tucci’s expeditions is covered at length in the following chapters:

Chapter 7 —1931, 1933 and 1935: The Mysteries of Unknown Tibet
Chapter 8 – The 1937 and 1939 Expeditions and His Correspondence with Gentile
Chapter 9 – After the War: To Lhasa and Beyond
Chapter 10 – In the Discovery of Nepal and Hem Raj’s Treasure

The Maps

Below are the original maps of Tucci’s Tibetan and Nepalese expeditions, designed by the cartographer Marco Goldoni and myself, and printed in detail in the nine volumes.

1931
1931

1933
1933

1935
1935

1937
1937

1939
1939</a

1948
1948

1952
1952

1954 – 1955 – 1956
1954

The Author

Enrica Garzilli Enrica Garzilli is a scholar of classical and modern Asia. Harvard Alumna, she holds a degree in Sanskrit and Indology from the Oriental School in Rome, where she studied with Tucci’s most famous disciples. She has taught in leading Universities, and regularly publishes in national and international newspapers, magazines, and TV.

Asiatica Association

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