When the capital of Tibet was still the mythical “Forbidden City”, a mysterious destination for the most adventurous explorers, when Nepal was covered with forests and swamps, swarming with dangerous beasts and forbidden to foreigners, when Italy was ruled by the Fascist regime greedily eyeing potential colonial possessions in Asia, a learned and adventurous man, the perfect embodiment of that era’s virile ideals, entered places where no Western man had before set foot: crossing glittering peaks of snow, desolate deserts and ruins of ancient cities, constantly challenging himself, he discovered archaeological treasures from past civilizations.
Even today, in the East as well as in the West, the name of this intrepid Italian explorer and insatiable researcher is cloaked in an aura of legend.
One could hardly imagine a richer and more exciting life than that of Giuseppe Tucci (1894-1984), the scholar who may quite rightly be considered one of the fathers of modern Oriental Studies and a central protagonist of Fascist cultural policy in Asia: from his first expeditions to the valleys of the Himalayas and the plains of the Ganges, to his diplomatic activity in Japan as spokesman for the Duce; from his encounters with scholars and leaders such as Gandhi, Tagore, the Dalai Lama, Mircea Eliade and Giovanni Gentile, who was his great protector together with Giulio Andreotti, to the archaeological excavations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran in more recent years; a human and intellectual adventure inextricably linked to the history of modern Italy, on which he often managed to shed new light.
So why did I decide to open the first English blog on Giuseppe Tucci – and on my book Il Duce’s Explorer: The Adventures of Giuseppe Tucci and the Italian Policy in Orient from Mussolini to Andreotti: With the Corrispondence of Giulio Andreotti – published in Italian: Milano: Memori, Rome, Asiatica, Milan, Sept. 2012?:
1. Giuseppe Tucci (1894-1984) was one of the greatest scholars in the world – on Tibet, India, China, Nepal, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sanskrit, and Asian Studies. He was an excellent historian and also one the leading historians of Tibetan artl.
2. He was and remains to this day famous throughout Asia – India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Central Asia.
3. Tucci is famous not only as a scholar, but as an archeologist, a representative of Mussolini in Japan, as the soul and director of the former IsMEO (Italian Institute for the Middle and Far East, then ISIAO), and.. as a spy!
4. Next to nothing is known on Italian policy in Asia by Benito Mussolini (1921-45) and Giulio Andretti (1947-84), with the exception of Renzo De Felice’s short 1988 book on Arabs, Jews and Indians in Mussolini’s politics.