The purpose of this article is to study local experiences and track records of a western Jesuit missionary, Ippolito Desideri (1684-1733), who opened the Tibetan mission in 1716, and to provide different perspectives and opinions to the fragmentary knowledge and images of today’s Tibet we are aware of. It was around 17th to 18th century when Tibetans in China had been introduced and propagated in earnest to the Westerners. Protagonists of the propagation were merchants, missionaries, oriental scholars, geographers and botanists, and each one had their own missions and objectives when entered Tibet. Amongst them, it can be said that an active part played by Catholic missionaries had a significant contribution of introducing Tibet to European society. Desideri is the first Italian Jesuit missionary who expanded the mission in Lhasa, Tibet. He left Rome on September 27, 1712 and arrived in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, on March 18, 1716. In Lhasa, he practiced his missionary activity for five years, and during this time he witnessed the invasion of the Dzungar Mongols and wars in 1717. This conflict placed Desideri under difficult circumstances for expanding his missionary activity; yet, he exhaustively studied the Tibetan culture and religion in there. His extensive notes on Tibet showed one of the best accounts of Tibetan culture and religion among the former Western missionaries, owing to his study of Tibetan language and Buddhist scriptures with Tibetan monks while living in the largest Buddhist sects, Sera monastery near Lhasa, Tibet.
The body of this article examines the initial form of Tibet in the 18th century revealed through his multifaceted experiences, observation and contacts with local dignitaries, King and living Buddha, in Tibet. In other words, this study oversees humanistic culture of Tibet and its external relations built at the time. By doing so, this study estimates and traces the real Tibetan society that reflected in the eyes of a westerner in the 18th century, as in the proposed subject.