Do we know what Nepal's legendary architect-sculptor and traveller looked like? No prizes for guessing he wore a Nepali topi and daura-suruwal, and had features best described as a melange of all Nepal's ethnicities.
That's what a 1972 Nepali postage stamp showed, and that's what the Nepal Arniko Society took as its guide when it commissioned a life-size statue of the man who took the pagoda style of temple architecture to China. The statue was flown to China this week and is to stand in front of Arinko's most famous creation-the White Pagoda Temple in Beijing.
The installation ceremony was originally planned for 25 October, the day Arinko is said to have begun work on the White Pagoda 730 years ago. More is planned in Beijing to commemorate the innovative architect-a Nepal Festival showcasing different aspects of Nepali culture, arts and crafts, foods and photography. The photo-exhibit will remain open even after the celebrations are over, to ensure more people know about the land where China's trademark pagodas originated.
The Society, founded by Nepalis who studied in China, hopes Arniko's second journey to China will strengthen the historical bonds between the two countries, and also introduce Nepal to potential visitors, coming as it is in conjunction with Nepal's designation as an "outbound" destination for Chinese tourists.
Arniko's massive White Pagoda (50 m tall, 30 m in diameter) was the tallest man-made building built in the Yuan era and remains a well-known pilgrimage and tourist spot.
Arniko was born in 1244 and travelled to China when he was 17, building stupas along the way. He built the White Pagoda in 1278 and the Yuan rulers were so impressed by it, that they bestowed upon Arniko a dukedom shortly after it was completed, and another title, Ming Hui, posthumously.
Arniko did not only build temples and carve Buddha images, he even wrote about them in a volume describing the measurements and proportions of an ideal Buddha statue.