The skill in transmuting metal into superb works of piety-and art-such as exemplified in this Museum's exhibits is an outstanding Nepalese achievement. It has been the object of foreign esteem since at least the seventh century A.D. when a Chinese diplomat commented on it in his memoirs. When and from whom artists and craftsmen learned these skills is unknown but they were most likely introduced by way of the Indian sub-continent. Some three millennia B.C. at urban centers such as Mohenjo Daro images were already being cast by what appears to be the highly complex "lost wax" technique and by the second century A.D. there are Indian literary references to it.
In the Kathmandu Valley a well-developed stone sculpture tradition was already in place by the second century but if paralleled by metal sculptures, as seems probable, none this early has been found. The oldest now known is a superb image of the Buddha cast in this very city in A.D. 591, but such perfection must rest on far older antecedents. The technique of embossing sheet metal with relief design (repousse) is at least equally old in Nepal as attested by it repousse image made in A.D. 607 to replace one "which had become dilapidated with the passage of time."
In a tradition that continues in Patan today, there are no large-scale foundries or factories. Metalworking is it small-scale family affair of certain Newar castes, who conduct it at home. To the mid-eighteenth century, cult objects literally poured from these workshops, not only to satisfy local needs, Hindu and Buddhist, but also foreign ones.