Pomplun, Trent. Jesuit on the Roof of the World: Ippolito Desideri’s Mission to Tibet (2010)

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Pomplun, Trent. Jesuit on the Roof of the World: Ippolito Desideri's
Mission to Tibet (2010)

Author:   Pomplun, Trent
ISBN: 978 0 19 537786 6
Format: Hardback
Pages: 320
List price(s): 16.99 GBP  29.95 USD
Publication date: 1 January 2010

Full description

Jesuit priests often served as the avant-garde as European powers
expanded in the early modern era. Jesuit on the Roof of the World is
the first full-length study of Ippolito Desideri, a Jesuit explorer
and missionary who traveled in Tibet from 1715 to 1721. Based on close
readings of a wide range of primary sources in Tibetan, Italian, and
Latin, Trent Pomplun's work follows the Jesuit's journey across
Tibet's western deserts, his entry into the court of the Mongol
chieftain Lhazang Khan, and his flight during the war that shook the
Himalayan kingdom during his stay. Desideri's letters and later
account of his travels relate the encounter between his Thomist
philosophy and the scholasticism of Geluk monks; the personal conflict
between his Roman Catholic beliefs and his appreciation of Tibetan
religion and culture; and the political intrigues that led to the
establishment of the Chinese protectorate in 1720. Desideri's writings
also offer a unique glimpse of Europe's fascination with the land of
snows.

Table of contents

INTRODUCTION;
1. SPIRITUAL WARFARE;
2. THIS INFERNAL APE, AVALOKITESHVARA;
3. EPIPHANY IN THE COURT OF LHAPZANG KHAN;
4. THE TIBETAN PROMETHEUS;
5. CURIOSITY AND EXOTICISM IN THE NOTIZIE ISTORICHE;
6. OEDIPUS AEGYPTIACUS;
7. JESUIT ACCOMMODATION AND THE BATTLE FOR TIBET

Description

Jesuit on the Roof of the World is the first full-length study in any
language of Ippolito Desideri (1684-1733), a Jesuit explorer and
missionary who traveled in Tibet from 1715 to 1721.

Based on close readings of a wide range of primary sources in Tibetan,
Italian, and Latin, Jesuit on the Roof of the World follows Desideri's
journey across the great Western deserts of Tibet, his entry into the
court of the Mongol chieftain Lhazang Khan, and his flight across
Eastern Tibet during the wars that shook Tibet during the early-
eighteenth century. While telling of these harrowing events, Desideri
relates the dramatic encounter between his Jesuit philosophy and the
scholasticism of the Geluk monks; the personal conflict between his
own Roman Catholic beliefs and his appreciation of Tibet religion and
culture; and the travails of a variety of colorful characters whose
political intrigues led to the invasion of Zunghar Mongols of 1717 and
the establishment of the Chinese protectorate in 1720.

As the Tibetans fought among themselves, the missionary waged his own
war against demons, sorcerers, and rival scholastic philosophers.
Towering over all in the mind of the missionary was the "fabulous
idol" Avalokitesvara and its embodiment in the Sixth Dalai Lama
Tsangyang Gyatso. In describing his spiritual warfare against the
Tibetan "pope," the missionary offers a unique glimpse into
theological problem of the salvation of non-Christians in early modern
theology; the curious-and highly controversial-appeal of Hermetic
philosophy in the Asian missions; the political underbelly of the
Chinese Rites Controversy; and the persistent European fascination
with the land of snows.

Reviews

"A great feat of historiography, this at-once sympathetic and
unblinking account of Desideri's missionary career and the collective
fantasies behind it makes for terrific reading. Treated to a feast of
intimate details drawn from letters, journals, and theological tracts
alike, the reader comes to understand from the inside the ambitions
and the disappointments of this seminal moment in the history of what
we now call interreligious dialogue. Desideri's fascinating story
helps us appreciate his complex combination of admiration,
accommodation, and refutation of Tibetan Buddhist thought, all set
against the turbulent period in Lhasa during the life of the Sixth
Dalai Lama, not to mention virulent competition between Christian
missionary sects at the time."

-- Janet Gyatso, author of Apparitions of the Self: The Secret
Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary

"This is a very important book. It is the first in English seriously
to treat the life and work of Ippolito Desideri, an eighteenth-century
Italian Jesuit who was the first Christian intellectual seriously to
engage Tibetan Buddhism in its own terms, to the point of writing
extensive treatises in scholastic Tibetan. Pomplun is a first-rate
Tibetanist as well as a good theologian, and he writes beautifully.
The result is a book of considerable intellectual weight that is a
delight to read."

--Paul J. Griffiths, author of Lying: An Augustinian Theology of
Duplicity , and Intellectual Appetite: A Theological Gramma

"The Jesuit missionary Ippolito Desideri, who lived in Lhasa during
the turbulent years of the early 1700s, has been perceived as a
uniquely fascinating and sympathetic figure by Western observers of
Tibet ever since the rediscovery of his writings over a century ago.
Previous scholarship, however, has not clearly situated Desideri in
the context of his times and of his spiritual and intellectual
formation. In Jesuit on the Roof of the World , Trent Pomplun vividly
portrays Desideri's world in its remarkable contours, at once at the
intersections of Asia and Europe, and medieval and modern. The book is
a pleasure to read, and one, at last, that I can recommend to readers
in both European and Asian studies."

-- Matthew T. Kapstein, Director of Tibetan Studies, Ecole Pratique
des Hautes Etudes, Paris

http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Buddhism/?view=usa&ci=9780195377866

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