Daoist Studies in Italy

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Marco Polo and Matteo Ricci

Italy is a civilized country in Europe with a long history. Due to its developed navigation and trade on the sea, Italy focused on China of the east in the early time of history. In about the 13th century, there was a book to introduce China in Italy, that is, the famous Travels of Marco Polo. Marco Polo (1254-1342) was a traveler. In about 1271, he came to China with his father and uncle by land through the Middle Asia. In 1275, he arrived in the capital of the Yuan dynasty. He was not neglected by the first emperor of the Yuan dynasty and worked as an imperial official for 17 years. After he returned to Italy in 1292, he was captured in a war and dictated Travels of Marco Polo, in which he mentioned the fertile land in China as well as the prosperity of its cities and the brilliant civilization of China. Even if there are some people who doubt about the authenticity of Marco Polo and his story, it is certain that the book reflected the concern of the Italian and European people of the ancient time about what was going on in China and in the east of the world. The westerners think Marco Polo's book had the direct influence on the development of the capitalism in Europe and on the setting up of the new shipping line to the east.

The Catholic missioners of the Society of Jesus were the first to do research on Sinology in Italy, the most wellknown of whom was Matteo Ricci (1552-1610). He was studying in a school of the Society of Jesus when he was young and joined the Society of Jesus at the age of 21, receiving the education for ministry at the Rome College. After he studied in Portugal, he was sent to India to do his missionary work. In 1582 he learned Chinese in Marco, and went to Zhaoqing of Guangdong Province with another Italian missioner of the Society of Jesus to set up the first Society for his missionary work the next year. After he stayed in Guangzhou for ten years, he began to change his hair into the Chinese style with a long pigtail like a Confucian. On the one hand, he introduced the map and the terrestrial globe into the intellectual circle. On the other, he translated Comentaries on the Four Confucian Classics ( 《四書章句》 Sishu Zhangju ) into Latin and introduced it to the west. In the preface of his book, he put the Confucian ethic and the thoughts of the Rome philosophers side by side. In 1595, he went up to Nanchang of Jiangxi Province. In 1597 he was appointed to the chairman of the Chinese Society of Ministry of the Society of Jesus. After moving to Nanjing, he made friends with Xu Guangqi and Li Zhi, the famous officials. In 1601 he was permitted to present in Beijing the Shenzong Emperor of the Ming with the clock, the map of the world, and the articles of Catholics. And he was appointed to a official position by the Ming court. On the one hand, he accepted the salary offered by the Ming court at the time. On the other, he introduced the knowledge of natural sciences of the west and the Christian doctrine to the Ming officials such as Xu Guangqi, Li Zhizao, Feng Yingjing, and Yang Tingjun. In 1610 he died from a disease in Beijing. In his late years of life he wrote about his experience of doing missionary work in Beijing. In 1615 it came out in Latin with the title the History of Christian Expedition to China. Later the book was translated into various languages such as German, Spanish, Italian, and English. In 1942 the English version of China in the 16th Century ---- Notes of Matteo Ricci 1583-1610 was published, which had great influence on the western world including Italy. It is believed that no one is able to explain better than Matteo Ricci the noble qualities of the Chinese, their love for freedom and order and knowledge, their zeal to religions, and their sensitivity to justice and ethic. And he claimed to have generalized in his research on the customs of the Chinese and their legal and political system.

Nevertheless he was a missioner who was sent for Catholic expedition. His mission was to pave the way to transmit Catholic in China and contended the believers from the traditional religions of China. So it is almost impossible for him to take a just and objective attitude towards the traditional religions such as Daoism and Buddhism or the religions of the masses. When it came to the various sects of religions in the 10th chapter of Volume I in China in the 16th Century ---- Notes of Matteo Ricci 1583-1610, he mentioned about Confucianism, Sakyamuni, and Laozi that refers to Daoism. Matteo Ricci thought that the Daoist books were full of wild words and it was easy for people to draw conclusion that how much cheat there were in it. The special duty of the Daoists was exorcising with the talismans and none of their prophecies was efficacious. Such descriptions as these indicate that he had only skin-deep contact with Daoism, considering it as the accumulation of the superstitious customs of the Chinese without careful study of it, especially without a complete understanding of the Daoist doctrine and its literature. His opinions had quite direct influence on the Italian Sinologists and the later missioners over a long period of time. They either took an interest in Daoism or defamed it as an enemy or a barrier. Even if it has made contribution to the study of Sinology in Italy, this book has a passive effect on the studies of Chinese religions.

Early Sinologists and their Research on Daoism

Most of the early Italian Sinologists were missioners of the Society of Jesus such as P. Lagarus Cattane (1560-1640), P. Nicolaus Longobardi (1559-1624), P. Prosper Intercetta (1625-1696), and P. Martinus Martini (1614-1661). Cattane was the assistant of Matteo Ricci. He compiled a dictionary of Chinese pronunciation and wrote essays about learning Chinese. P. Nicolaus Longobardi was the chairman of the Society of Jesus in China. His article the Essentials of Chinese Religions stated that the Chinese people never knew the souls, the Chinese men of letters did not believe in gods. We can see that opinions of P. Nicolaus Longobardi differed from those of Ricci who held that Chinese people thought everything had the soul. P. Prosper Intercetta took charge of the Catholic affairs in Hangzhou in the middle of the 17th century. Later he published in Paris his book Confucius---Chinese Philosopher, which helped the theory of Confucius spreading among the European readers. P. Martinus Martini edited and published the New Maps of China in 1665, which consisted of seventeen maps, including the map of the whole territory of China and the maps of different provinces. It helped the western world to get a better understanding of the Chinese geography since the maps were drawn up according to the geographic map-making principles of the west. He wrote two important essays as well: the War of the Tartar People and the First Chapter of the Chinese History. The former was about how the Manchu nationality conquered China and the latter talked about the Chinese history before Jesus Christ. They are of great values in the history of studying Sinology of both Europe and Italy.

Of the Italian missioners, P. D'elia (1890-1963) later became a real Sinologist. He was the visiting professor of Chinese language and literature in Rome University. He published the History of the First Theory of Christianity in Chinese Language, the Chinese Terrestrial Globe of Father Ricci, and the Origin of Arts of Chinese Christianity: 1580-1640. He was in charge of proofreading and publishing the Complete Works of Matteo Ricci (three volumes). With his unique ideas about Chinese religions, he thought that the ancient religion of China was monotheism, which was ruined later by superstitious Buddhism and Daoism. His ideas, however, did not accepted by most European Sinologists.

The careful Daoist studies by Italian Sinologists began with the first complete Italian version of the Book of Dao and its Virtue. It was Stanislas Julien (1797-1873) who translated it from Chinese into Italia.His student Antelmo Severni (1828-1909) later became the professor of Chinese Language in Floruns Universit and his successor Julien Carlo Puini (1839-1924) did his initial research on Chinese Daoism. Besides, Giovanni Vacca (1856-1936) the visiting professor of Rome University wrote the essay Notes of China on the Daoist outer elixir that carried in the magazine the Journal of Oriental Studies in 1913.

The Daoist Studies at the Academy of the Near, Middle, and Far East

It is a well-known research institution of Oriental Studies in Italy, which was founded by the Asian thinker Giuseppe Tucci (1894-19830). Tucci was very talented with languages and he did comprehensive research on the religious thoughts of ancient Persia, India, Chinese Tibet, and China. In 1922 he published the General History of Philosophy in Ancient China. In the appendix of the section "Laozi and India" of this book, Tucci criticized some incorrect opinion that was put forward in 1904 that the theory of Laozi came from Buddhism or Brahmanism. He compared the Buddhist theory with some section of Daoist philosophy he translated by himself, pointing out there were complete different ideas in these two. The definition of the Dao contains energy and mass and the Dao is the origin as well as the end of everything. Based on this Daoist doctrine, Daoists believe neither in karma nor in reincarnation. They think life is the natural inevitability instead of pain. He thinks if we compare Daoism with Buddhism and Brahmanism, Daoism seems to be closer to Brahmanism. Kumarajiva the king of Arsam had got the Book of Dao and its Virtue translated into Sanskrit. But when we compare the Sanskrit classics with the sections of Laozi and Liezi, we can find that Daoism and Brahmanism happened to have coinidence of expressions or similar meanings, but the ideological system of the two properly differ from each other. In 1924, Tucci published his book about Daoism: Praise of Daoism. He justified favorably and persistently the obvious unique Daoist character and its difference from the Indian thought. In 1946 he published his book Religious Asia to introduce from every perspective the influential Asian religions of various kinds, including Chinese religions (from the ancient ideas of heavenly mandate to Confucianism, Daoism, and the gods worshiped by the common people) and the religion of Chinese Tibet before Buddhism. In 1958 under the leadership of him Rome published the three volumes of Oriental Culture and Lionelle Lanciotti wrote the section of Chinese religions for it. Tucci's contributions to Sinology lay in his comparing the philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome with those of the east such as Laozi and Confucius even if such comparison was initial and experimental as we look at it today. It is out of question that he opened up the great expectation of the research on Chinese philosophy and religions in European Sinological circle.

The Daoist Studies from 1960s to 1980s

Between 1960 and 1980 there was a vigorous campaign all over the world of studying Daoism in the academic circle. There came forward a number of experts and a lot of works on Daoism although it was not as prosperous as in France and Japan. Lionelle Lanciotti and Giuliano Bertuecioli were the most remarkable ones.

Lionelle Lanciotti

He was once a student of Father Wilhelm's. Later he started his study of Sinology under the guidance of a famous Sinologist in Stockholm and furthered his study in Leiden University of Holland in 1951. At present he is professor of Chinese literature at the College of Orient University in Napoli and works as a chief editor of the journal China and publisher of the magazine Orient and West (Quarterly). In 1957 he published his essay Modern Daoism in China on the journal China and in 1981 as the first translator he introduced to the Italian readers the Book of Dao and its Virtue, the silk book unearthed in the tomb of the Han at Mawangdui of China. It was reprinted in 1993, by which we can see how this discovery is concerned about in Italy. In 1960 he founded the Sinology Center in Venice University, which was changed later into Section of Sinology of Department of India and the Far East. In 1984 and 1987 he took charge of the publication of the essays of the Academic Conference of the Oriental Studies (five volumes), of which the Asian religions: the 3rd - 10th century and Venice and the Orient are closely related to Chinese Daoism.

Giuliano Bertuecioli

He was also a student of Father Wilhelm's. He took a diplomatic career since his youth, living and working in China, Chinese Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam for over 40 years. He had a special interest in Daoism. In 1953 he published his essay On the Case of Daoists' Using Fire Penalty at the White Cloud Temple on the magazine Orient and West. He did a textual research on that the ex-abbot of the White Cloud Temple and his layman secretary were executed the fire penalty by the Daosits because they had committed a lot of crimes. After he visited in 1974 Mt.Mao that is famous for its prosperity of Daoism, he published his article the Memory of Mt.Maoshan on the Journal of Oriental Studies to describe the prosperity in history of the Daoist temples on Mt.Maoshan. In 1985 he paid his second visit to Mt.Maoshan and published his article My Second Visit to Mt.Maoshan on the same magazine to depict the decline of Mt.Maoshan Daoism during the Cultural Revolution. In 1980s he published some other articles on Daoism such as Matteo Ricci and Daoism and Mysticism in Ancient China. Before long he translated the Yuan zaju play Fool's Paradise ( 《黃梁夢》 Huangliang Meng ) into Italian, which was imbued with the ideas of Daoism.

After Schipper, the expert of the Daoist studies, took charge of the drawing up of the Annotated Bibliography of the Daoist Canon, Bertuecioli was in charge of the Italian group of the seminar on the Daoist Canon. He proofread the contents of the Daoist Canon, drew up the index and wrote the abstracts for some of the Daoist scriptures. Alfredo Cadonna, the Italian scholar, has got involved in drawing up the Annotated Bibliography of the Daoist Canon as well. Alfredo Cadonna is the visiting professor of Sinology in Venice University and the secretary of the Orient College of Venice University. Cadonna is also an expert of the Dunhuang Manuscripts. In 1982 he published on the magazine China his essay the Queen Mother of the West: the Passages in the Two Volumes of the Dunhuang Manuscripts. In 1984 he published in Venice another essay the Daoist of the Emperor: the 12 Passages in One Volume of the Dunhuang Manuscripts. It is the Italian version with notes about part of the Daoist Ye Jingneng's life in the Dunhuang Manuscripts (No 36836). And he published on the magazine Venice Orient his essay the Daoist Astronomer from Chang'an to the Moon (based on Xue Aihua's notes about the Dunhuang Manuscripts (No 36836)). In 1992 he published on the magazine China his essay the Contents of the Documents on the Daoists Ye Jingneng and Ye Fashan of the Tang. He is the leader of the research group of Daoist philosophy and terms, which offers help to other Italian scholars for their research on Daoism.

The Rising of the Sinologists of the Younger Generation

In 1980s a number of Sinologists began to study China and Chinese Daoism in Italy. Of them Fabrizio Pregadio and Monica Esposito have made achievements.

Fabrizio Pregadio

He was graduated from Venice Unversity in 1983. He published on the magazine China his essay ABC of Latest Daoism Study in 1981 and Wang Chong and Daoism ---- the 24th Volume of "Judgements on Opinions" ( 《論衡》 Lunheng ) Translated with Notes in 1982. His graduate thesis was the Language of "Judgements on Opinions": Commentary and Grammatical Analysis of "the Void of the Dao" in the 24th Volume. Pregadio furthered his study in Leiden University of Holland and did research on the ancient science of China and Daoist inner and outer alchemy at the Institute of Human Sciences in Kyoto University of Japan from 1986 to 1994. He published on the magazine Dictionary of Alchemy of China ---- Notes of Mehu's Commentaries on "Classics on Drugs and Acupuncture" ( 《藥石爾雅》 Yaoshi Erya ) in 1986. In 1987 he translated into Italian the first, fourth, sixteenth, and nineteenth chapters of the book the Inner Book of the Man Who Embraces Simplicity and published it in Rome with the title Drugs of Supreme Clarity: Ge Hong's Inner Book of the Man Who Embraces Simplicity. In 1990 as he obtained his doctor's degree at the College of Orient University in Napoli, he published two book reviews on Synopsis of the Far East and Asian Studies: the Medical Books in Mawangdui Manuscripts and the Latest Two Daoist Books of Nourishing Life. His dissertation "the Book of the Nine Cauldrons" ( 《九鼎經》 Jiuding Jing ) and its Tradition with the tranlations and notes of the Yellow Emperor's Book of the Divine Elixir of the Nine Cauldrons ( 《黃帝九鼎神丹經》 Huangdi Jiuding Shendan Jing ) was published in Book II of On the Chinese History of Ancient Science edited by Yamada Keiji. His dissertation introduced in detail such early works of alchemy as the Yellow Emperor's Book of the Divine Elixir of the Nine Cauldrons and the Yellow Emperor's Formula of the Divine Elixir of the Nine Cauldrons. The fourth part analyzed the process and practice of refining elixir and the author stressed that it was the symbolic reliving of the origin of universe. He attended the seminar of the Daoist Canon and wrote some of abstracts for the Daoist scriptures. In 1993 he published his article Guide to the Study and Textual Research on the Daoist Canon on the magazine China. In recent years he focused on the Three Ways Unified and Normalized of the Book of Changes. In 1995 he published on the eighth issue of the Synopsis of the Far East and Asian Studies his essay the Expression of Time in "the Three Ways Unified and Normalized of the Book of Changes". He pointed out that the Three Ways Unified and Normalized of the Book of Changes was the origin of the Daoist theories of inner and outer alchemy. He thought it integrated the magical skills with the theories of the Daoist scriptures and the Book of Changes. The Three Ways Unified and Normalized of the Book of Changes widely spread in the southern areas of the Changjing River during the Six Dynasties. In 1996 he published his book in Venice the Three Ways Unified and Normalized of the Book of Changes: from "the Book of Changes" to Alchemy. It introduces the various versions of the Three Ways Unified and Normalized of the Book of Changes with notes and remarkes some important paragraphs. In addition it analyzes the relationship between the Three Ways Unified and Normalized of the Book of Changes and the Book of Dragon and Tiger ( 《龍虎經》 Longhu Jing ), the Book of the Golden and Azure ( 《金碧經》 Jinbi Jing ), and the Three Ways Unified and Normalized of the Book of Changes in Ancient Language ( 《古文參同契》 Guwen Cantongqi ).

Another young scholar also attended the Schipper's seminar of the Daoist Canon. His essay A Research on the Daoist Lu Xiujing (406-477) was on the Annual of the College of Orient University. Franco Gatti still another younger scholar graduated from Venice University and took charge of his share of editing Venice and Asia published by Venice University. His graduate thesis was about the Daoist Poems of Pacing the Void. In 1991 Gatti published on the magazine China his essay the Daoist Ye Jingneng (?-740): with Notes of the historical Documents in the Translated Passages. Based on the orthodox history and other historical materials he translated the historical documents about Ye Jingneng into Italian in order to distinguish him from another historic figure Ye Fashan. His graduate thesis was about Wu Jun the Daoist of the Tang.

The young scholar Monica Esposito came to China twice in 1986 and 1989 to further her study in Fudan University and the Academy of Social Sciences in Shanghai. In 1987 she graduated from Venice University and her graduate thesis was Practice of Chinese Qigong ---- the Introduction to the Contemporary Original Works and Styles. Later she published her book Qigong: the Five Breath School ( 《五息闡微》 Wuxi Chanwei ) of New Daoism with a complete Italian version of the Subtle Elaboration of Five Breath School ( 五息功 Wuxi Gong ) after she supplemented her thesis with discussions on the relations between Daoism and Qigong. In 1988 she did her research on the Daoist inner alchemy under the guidance of Prof.Robinet in Paris University and completed her postgraduate thesis An Introduction to the Literature of the Inner Alchemy in the Supplementary Daoist Canon. In addition, her thesis contains the biographies of the patriarchs narrated by Men Yide the grand Daoist in the Qing dynasty as well. Part of her thesis was published in 1992 with the title the Collection of Essays of Inner Alchemy of the Dragon Gate Sect in the Supplementary Daoist Canon on the Annal of the College of Orient University. In 1993 under the guidance of Prof. Robinet she completed her doctoral dissertation the Dragon Gate Sect on Mt. Jingai and the Arts of the Inner Alchemy in the Supplementary Daoist Canon. She reconstructed the pedigree of the Dragon Gate Sect of the Complete Perfection Tradition based on the documents in the Light of the Mind on Mt. Jingai ( 《金蓋心燈》 Jingai Xindeng ). She points out that there are many errors or false records in the Light of the Mind on Mt. Jingai when its author redorded the biographies of the patriarchs from the first to fourth generation. Even the dates of birth and death of Zhao Xujing the patriarch of the first generation was a mistake, which indicated that it was the author who desperately distorted it. She thinks that the real founder of the Dragon Gate Sect of Complete Perfection Tradition should be its eight patriarch Wang Changyue (1522-1680), which was the orthodox pedigree of the Dragon Gate Sect although it is always thought that the Dragon Gate Sect started from Qiu Chuji. In 1995 she published in Venice her essay Return to the Origin --- Conceived Dictionary of the Inner Alchemy of the Ming and Qing (it is collected in the book the Original Materials of the Studies of Chinese Culture). In 1996 she published her book the Arts of Refining the Vital Breath to introduce to the common readers the Daoist theories of refining the vital breath of the inner alchemy in the Ming and Qing dynasties. She narrated the history of the Mind Lineage of Xizhu ( 西竺心宗 Xizhu Xinzong ) of the Dragon Gate Sect and translated with notes the Inner Monologue of Er Lan ( 《二懶心話》 Erlan Xinhua ) of Min Yide the grand Daoist in the Qing dynasty. Monica is very diligent of the contemporary Italian scholars of the young generation who study Sinology.

Sinology in Italy has a very long history, but the Daoist studies still remain at the first stage. Fortunately there are a number of young scholars who are doing their research on Daoism in such countries as France, the Great Britain, Japan, and China. We can anticipate that the Italian Sinologists of the new generation will make great achievements in Sinology and Daoist studies.