Source: Asian Studies in Italy, by Carlo G. Cereti, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy (2005). See the original text here.
Asian studies in Italy focus mainly on China, Japan, India and Central Asia. Oriental studies have been practised in Italy since Imperial Rome. In 1481, Hebrew, Arabic and Chaldaic were taught in Rome’s Studium Urbis because of the importance these languages had for studying the Bible and church history.
In the Middle Ages, travellers, merchants and men of religion travelled throughout Asia to reach the “Far East”, the most famous of these being Marco Polo. Sinology in Italy is, however, most strongly associated with the work of two Jesuits: Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) and Pasquale D’Elia (1890-1963). Matteo Ricci was the first Italian Sinologist, while Pasquale D’Elia was the best Sinologist in Rome between the two World Wars and was the last “pre-modern” missionary Sinologist.
In the 1980s, Japanese and Chinese studies underwent major changes. Up to the early 1980s, most students interested in the Far East had a background in the humanities and were interested mainly in Asian culture. Towards the second half of that decade, the number of students rose from 10 to 15 a year to over 100 a year, and the fields of study expanded from language and culture to economy, history and contemporary subjects. More recently, specialized Japanese courses have been offered, such as Japanese business at the private Bocconi Univerity of Milan and the translation and interpretation course in Lecce.
Indology and Central Asian studies are less developed than Chinese and Japanese studies.
PRESENT ORGANISATION AND FUNCTIONING
Today the three main seats of research are Naples, Rome and Venice.
· L’Orientale at the University of Naples, formerly the Istituto Universitario Orientale, hosts a large department of Asian studies, covering the whole of Asia and the Islamic world.
- The University of Rome, La Sapienza, hosts specialists in the languages, history and archaeology of Asian countries.
- At the University of Venice, “Ca’Foscari”, the main focus is on Chinese and East Asian studies.
Several cultural institutions and private foundations have been particularly active in promoting Asian studies, including:
- The Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, established in 1995
- The institute Venezia e l’Oriente of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, founded in 1958
- Chinese and Japanese studies:
- Chinese language and literature: 35 researchers, including seven full-time professors (four in Venice, one each in Rome, Milan and Naples).
- Japanese language and literature: 24 researchers, including six full-time professors (two in Naples and Venice and one each in Rome and Milan).
- History of Eastern and South-Eastern Asia: 11 researchers, including three full-time professors (two in Naples and one in Venice).
- Archaeology, history of art and philosophy of Eastern Asia: seven researchers, including five full-time professors (two in Naples, one each in Rome, Venice and Genoa).
ABOUT THE STAFF
Today, there are 77 permanent researchers in Chinese and Japanese studies in Italian universities.
- Indian studies:
- Modern languages and literature of the Indian sub-continent: 10 researchers, including three full-time professors in Rome, Venice and Naples.
- Indology and Tibetology: 18 researchers, including eight full-time professors in Milan, Bologna, Palermo, Turin, Cagliari, Pisa, Basilicata and Rome.
- Philosophy, religion and history of India and Central Asia: five researchers, no full-time professor.
- Archaeology and history of the arts of India and Central Asia: nine researchers, including four full-time professors in Naples, Bologna and Rome.
A total of 42 researchers are studying India and Central Asia.
At the University of Naples, Asian studies include the whole of Asia and the Islamic world. At the University of Rome, instruction in Chinese and Japanese was followed by teaching of Persian and then of Sanskrit. In Venice, the department of Eurasian studies focuses on themes connecting Europe to Asia. The Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente runs research and cooperation programmes in many Asian countries, including China, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Yemen. It also organizes languages courses in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Persian and Turkish.
- East and West, founded in 1950 and published by the Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente
- Annali dell’Istituto Univerisitario Orientale, published by the University of Naples
- Rivista di Studi Orientali, the official journal of the department of oriental studies at the University of Rome
- Quaderni Eurasiatici, published in Venice