In the 13th century, during the Malla Dynasty, Balabahu (also known as Arniko or Araniko), a Nepali child prodigy, architect and artisan, was invited by the Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan to design and build Buddhist stupas (shrines) and pagodas in China. Arniko had proved his talent as a great artist, craftsman and designer at a very early age, designing and building temples and stupas in Lhasa, Tibet when he was just 12 years old.
The Chinese Emperor commissioned Arniko to design and build (Buddhist) stupas and pagodas across China. In doing so he popularised the distinctive Nepali style of pagoda and stupa design which spread from China to other asian countries. It was a two-way creative flow though: Arniko and other Nepali artists and artisans were strongly influenced by Chinese art and design and it is said that the design of Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu demonstrates the influence of Chinese styles on Nepali art.
It is a shame that as the influence of Nepali art forms spread beyond China to Japan and the rest of Asia, their origins have been forgotten.
There is a statue of Arniko outside the White Stupa of the Miaoying Temple in Beijing, where Nepalis are allowed to enter for free.