February 22, 2024, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

The White Stupa of the Miaoying Temple in Beijing : A landmark history of art constructed by Nepal’s Araniko

The Nepal Weekly
December 20, 2022

The White Stupa of the Miaoying Temple was completed during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and was designed by the Nepalese artist Araniko (1245-1306). It is elevated on a 2-meter -high platform that occupies an area of more than 1,400 square meters. The Stupa’s 9-meter-high base consists of three tiers, of which the upper two are designed as Sumeru terraces, an architectural style originating from Indian Buddhism and widely adopted in East Asia with a meaning of supreme stability. Each tier is bilaterally symmetrical and designed with origami edges along its four sides.

The main body of the White Stupa resembles a giant inverted bowl. At the juncture of the Stupa body and its base, a lotus throne featuring 24 upturned carved lotus petals makes a natural transition between the two parts. The Xianglun rings, a cone-shaped vertical shaft with 13 tiers of rings piling up in decreasing diameter to the top, hold up the canopy and the gilded bronze finial.

The White Stupa of the Miaoying Temple was the greatest work of Araniko and is the only well-preserved cultural relic of the Dadu capital of the Yuan Dynasty in Beijing. It is a tribute to the historical friendship between China and Nepal.

Nepal is one of the richest countries in the world in cultural heritage through the eyes of architecture. We have seen many beautiful buildings and pagoda-style ancient temples in Nepal because of Nepalese who are and were the best in their architecture.

Those all are hard-working Nepalese people and skilful in the architecture in the history of Nepal. Among the various painter and architects, Araniko was the most famous and the greatest architect of Nepal.

Araniko was born in 1244. Despite their tender age, he led 80 artisans to Lhasa and erected a Golden Stupa. He also showed his qualities as a bronze caster, painter, and architect in China. He was a famous architect of Nepal. During the Malla period, the Chinese emperor Kublai Khan sent a message to Nepal to send some artists for making statues in China. In 1260 AD King Jaya Bhimdev Malla sent 80 Nepalese artists to Lhasa under the leadership of Araniko.

They built several pagoda-style monasteries in Lhasa. Araniko’s works were highly appreciated by the Chinese. He made many temples and Stupas in China. His good work helped to maintain good relations between Nepal and China.

Impressed by his craftsmanship, Emperor Kublai Khan of China appointed him the controller of imperial architectural studies. He was posthumously awarded the Chinese Title of Ming Hoi and decorated with the title of Duke of Liang The white Pagoda in Peking, designed by Arniko, stands to this day as a monument of Nepalese art and architecture.

Not only in Nepal but also in Tibet, China, Mongolia, and Indonesia, Araniko was popular. There was a famous emperor in China called Kublai Khan during the 13th century. He’s been a fantastic design and architecture fan.

He built a beautiful monastery in the pagoda style in Lhasa that so impressed the teacher of the emperor that he asked Araniko to go to China and meet the emperor. After consulting him, Kublai Khan wished to evaluate him, so he requested Araniko to fix a Sung emperor’s copper sculpture.

After Araniko had completed his restoration, the sculpture appeared so ideal that he was significantly praised by even the most qualified painters in China. With his job, Araniko demonstrated to be a genius. In architecture, he was nice as well as in painting and sculpture.

He depicted and surprised everybody there with a sequence of pictures of Chinese emperors. He was provided a silver plate to carry with a tiger picture in it by 1247, which implied China’s greatest appreciation. The emperor liked him very much and he was honoured as Duke of Liang.

The White Pagoda or Peking’s Pai Ta Sze still exists proudly as Araniko’s excellent job. Yungtang’s Nepali-style archway is another excellent piece of his. Although Araniko enlisted in China and was killed there in 1306, he was a Nepali.

Architect Arniko was not only famous in within country Nepal but also in other countries like Tibet, China, Mongolia as well as Indonesia.

He died in China on March 11, 1306, at the age of 62.

His achievement tale is extremely praised in both China and Nepal. In addition, in his honour was built the 115 km Araniko road that links Kathmandu with Kodari, the Kathmandu Valley to China.

Late scholar Satya Mohan Joshi who died recently had studied valuable information on Araniko and The White Stupa of Beijing. He had elaborated contribution of Araniko in Nepal and abroad.  (By Ram Dangol)