Conférence SFEMT/BULAC : Preliminary report on the Tibetan-Italian and Italian-Tibetan dictionary of Fr. Francesco Orazio della Penna (1680-1745)

Dans le cadre de l’exposition Le tibétain sans peine ? Deux siècles d’apprentissage du tibétain, la SFEMT et la BULAC ont le plaisir d’annoncer la tenue de la conférence suivante :

Preliminary report on the Tibetan-Italian and Italian-Tibetan dictionary of Fr. Francesco Orazio della Penna (1680-1745)

par Federica Venturi

le jeudi 1 Juin 2023 à 18h30 à l’Auditorium de l’INALCO (65, rue des Grands Moulins 75013 Paris) et via Zoom (

Résumé :

When discussing the presence of the Italian Catholic missionaries in Tibet, the figure of the Jesuit Ippolito Desideri towers above all others, on account of his detailed and informative travel report (Notizie Istoriche del Tibet) as well as of his subtle understanding of Tibetan Buddhism, demonstrated through the four texts he composed, in Tibetan, to refute what he believed to be the fallacies of Buddhism. On the contrary, the activities of the Capuchin missionaries, whose cumulative presence in Tibet spanned over twenty years (1709–1711; 1716–1732; 1741–1745), is less well known, in part because in general their activities were primarily focused on providing free medical care to the people of Lhasa, and in part because the majority of the writings of the Capuchin friars who had an intellectual inclination toward the
Tibetan culture have not survived.
First among these scholarly friars was Francesco Orazio della Penna (1680–1745), who completed five translations into Tibetan of canonical Christian texts, and seven translations of Buddhist works into Italian, all lost. However, in order to undertake these works, Della Penna also compiled the first dictionary of the Tibetan language into a modern western language, Italian, which is said to comprise as many as 35,000 entries. Long believed lost, three manuscripts of this dictionary have been fortuitously acquired by a private collector and are now finally available for research. This talk will present an overview of the history of this dictionary and a preliminary description of its contents, concluding with an assessment of its cultural and linguistic significance as a testimony of the one of the earliest encounters between Christianity and Buddhism in Tibet.

A propos de la conférencière :

Federica Venturi is an associate researcher at the CRCAO. In the past she has been part of the TibArmy research project and has held visiting research positions at UCLA and Indiana University. Her research centers around various aspects of the history of Tibet, and she has published on a varied range of topics and historical periods, including on Tibetan holy places, on the sanctioning of violence for political reasons by Tibetan Buddhist hierarchs, and on different aspects of the Tibetan army at the time of the dGa’ ldan pho brang. She is currently researching the Tibetan-Italian-Tibetan dictionary by Della Penna.

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