Nepal – the country of the Buddha and the Mt. Everest

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without – Buddha

Arniko, the Great Architect From Nepal

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 27, 2011

Nepal’s temples, stupas, and many more structures are examples of this nation being a former leader in architecture. 

Today’s generation sees Nepal as a poor country lacking high-tech and engineering skills. But Nepal’s past shows skilled manpower and a highly developed society. One example of this skilled manpower is Arniko, the greatest architect of Nepalese history.

Arniko was forced to live in China, where he drew great respect. He made lots of sculptural works which are still a great asset of China.

Nepalese author Satya Mohan Joshi who has researched Arniko said his works in China are really a great challenge to modern engineering. The works he did in the 13th century are unbelievable.

Nepalese history doesn’t have any proof of where in Nepal Arniko grew up. But Joshi claims Arniko was from Patan, a famous place for sculpture.

Many Nepali architects made statues of special historical importance. However, Arniko was the only one who became famous not only in Nepal but also in Tibet, China, Mongolia and as far as Indonesia.

During Arniko’s time, renowned Mongol emperor Kublai Khan was a great lover of art and architecture.

He wanted to build a golden stupa (a Buddhist shrine) in Lhasa for his teacher Pags-pa. In 1260, he decided to ask Nepal to send a skilled architect to supervise the work. 

Lasha Durbar
©2006 Ramhari

At that time, Jaya Bhim Dev Malla was the king of Nepal. When he asked for an architect to go to Lhasa, more than 80 people showed their interest.

The king had a great difficulty in selecting the most skilled artist to lead the mission. Finally, Arniko came forward and said that he was ready to do the job.

The king did not believe Arniko at first, as he was quite a young man. However, looking at his skill, the king made him the leader and sent him to Lhasa where he eventually built a beautiful pagoda-style monastery.

He carried out his work so well that the emperor’s teacher Pags-pa requested he meet the emperor. Kublai Khan wanted to test him. Therefore, he asked young Araniko to repair a copper statue of a Sung emperor. When Arniko finished, the statue looked so perfect that even the most skilled artists of China greatly admired him.

Araniko through his works proved that he was an uncommon genius. He was equally good at painting, sculpture and architecture. He painted a series of portraits of Chinese emperors and impressed everyone there. By 1247, he was given a silver plate to wear with an image of tiger on it. The emperor became very fond of him and gave him the title “Duke of Liang” as an honor.

The white pagoda or the Pai Ta Sze in Beijing still today stands as the great work of Arniko. The other famous work by Arniko is the Archway of Yungtang. Its design exactly follows the Nepalese style.

Although Arniko married in China and died in there in 1306, he was a Nepali. The story of his success is highly admired in China.


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