The Peace Pagoda
Built as a result of great effort and passion, the Munich Peace Pagoda is still admired by thousands of visitors today. Learn about its inspiring story.
THE STORY OF THE NEPAL PAGODA (IGA ’83)
The Nepal Pagoda at Westpark in Munich was established in 1983 in connection with the International Horticultural Exhibition (IGA ’83). It was built from hand-decorated elements imported for this purpose straight from Nepal. There are 48 carved columns and 48 figures representing Nepalese deities. The two roofs are decorated with 76 bronze bells, the Gajur (roof top) is gold plated. 80 tons of Dalbergia Sisso and Salwood have been cut and carved by Nepalese craftsmen, preserving the ancient carving traditions of their culture.
The pagoda construction project was created by architect Jochen Reier, chairman of APAC (Association to Preserve Asian Culture). In order to obtain construction consent and original components, the crew had to travel to Asia. Together with his helpers, J. Reier encountered many difficulties during the course of the project that took him 3 years, starting with the difficult financing situation up to corrupt machinations of the royal family and extremely difficult transport conditions through Nepal and India all the way to the port of Calcutta. Parts were transported with often dangerous adventures, among others the truck Reier traveled was shot at.
As all parts finally arrived in Munich with a delay of almost 5 months, the German and Nepalese team built the temple day and night and under most difficult weather conditions to finish in time for the opening of the IGA in April 1983. After almost 40 years, the Peace Pagoda is still in good condition today and continues to delight many visitors from all over the world as one of the main attractions of Munich’s Westpark.
A second Nepal Peace Pagoda was built by J. Reier on behalf of the Kingdom of Nepal as part of the 1988 Brisbane World Expo; it too is still well preserved today and is considered one of the most significant cultural assets in Brisbane since the Expo was hosted.
The brain child of Jochen Reier to build a traditional Nepalese temple at the IGA ‘83 was born.
Trip to Nepal, meeting with Cabinet ministers HMG of Nepal from the Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Culture and Education; Forest Ministry, Ministry of Tourism. Contracts are prepared and APAC Chairman J. Reier manufactures, with the help of woodcarvers, a model scale 1: 50.
Meeting IGA / APAC, proposal costs about 1 million Deutschmarks. Jochen Reier proposes third parity – shared costs between APAC, IGA and NEPAL, but NEPAL and IGA refuse to bear any costs. APAC letter to German Foreign Minister Genscher to ask for financial help is rejected.
The contracts are still not signed, Bonn talks its way out of Foreign Ministry in Kathmandu and vice versa. J. Reier makes steam and contacts the King. That helps! Reier is officially entrusted with the implementation of the pagoda project by HMG of Nepal, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Nepal does not contribute in any way to the costs, but acts as the official client vis-à-vis IGA
The Nepalese bureaucracy is proving to be much pulpier than ours. Endless meetings around in various ministries. What King Birendra confidently and easily describes as his “Beloved Child”, is now delayed and rather hindered. Nobody wants to take responsibility, in part there is jealousy and envy, because no baksheesh! J. Reier sticks by his 12-point program of tough negotiation. To name a few: the sole ownership by APAC, total tax exemption, duty-free import of cars, trucks and machinery, and working visas by the State Department for all APAC employees.
J. Reier, barely back in Munich, organizes the transfer of our three trucks plus jeep to Kathmandu, as well as a film team for the planned film documentary. The film team travels in the first truck, the jeep in the second truck. The normally 4-week trip turns into a 2-month nightmare. Everything goes wrong, and to make matters worse Iran does not issue transit visas. For 2 weeks all twelve staff freezes almost to death at the Turkish-Iranian border. J. Reier must fly from Ankara to Bonn to get political and diplomatic support which pressures Iran for the visa. Slimming but it works!
Reier’s wife, Gigi is pregnant and is flown to Kathmandu where she gives birth to daughter Julie in February. J. Reier spent three months in various parts of Nepal jungles to cut suitable timber mainly in the Tarai (plains of Nepal). Hordes of mosquitoes, vermin and tropical heat! Finally, the timber is cut and been transported in 3 trucks up to Kathmandu, to be collected in the forest ministry. But none of the three trucks ever arrived there, 30 cubic tons of hard wood have disappeared without a trace. Heads roll in the Forestry Ministry, yet only a personal contact between J. Reier to King Birendra turns the situation around. APAC again receives permission to cut timber. The contractually promised loan of Peter Helfer (Pitti) had never arrived to Kathmandu; APAC has to sell its three trucks to cover running costs. Reier organizes wood again, this time he drives it himself to the woodcarving factories. He flies to Munich to collect the container truck provided by Mercedes, to drive it to Kathmandu. Previously, he seeks Pitti in Berlin and Bielefeld, finds him finally on his yacht in Grand Canarias. Money this playboy has NONE. It has to go without him.
The 12-day trip to Nepal feels like a recreational trip for Reier, because he drives the truck all by himself. He will also transport the first four containers with all the pagoda parts personally to Calcutta. The cargo is too precious!
APAC works hard for the NEPAL-week during the IGA, 3000 square feet exhibition! Photo gallery and our film documentary Pagoda for Munich, bullock carts, rickshaws, carpet weaving frame, men’s high bronze statues, a musician and dance ensemble just to name a few. Still the contracts have not been signed.
Funding problems are to be bridged with the sale of the chairman’s house in Kathmandu. The wood carvings are developing fast. Almost 300 carvers, carpenters, bronze casters and metal workers are employed. Race against time to catch up with a three month delay caused by the wood robbery. J. Reier rattles off all the Embassies located in Kathmandu – they all have to transport goods from the Indian port of Calcutta to Kathmandu. Hapac Lloyd sends our containers to Hamburg, at cost; Schenker serves as a shipping agent.
The first trip down to Calcutta includes the inner pagoda construction, eight meters long, finely carved beams. Since they do not fit into the container, they have to be moored to the chassis of the truck with ropes, after being secured with pulleys. All components must first be sealed by the archaeological department, only thus can they be exported. Antiques, older than 100 years cannot leave Nepal. The museum people want to examine our wooden pillars on all sides, which is technically impossible. 24 pcs x 400 KG spin. All transport documents are ready; each and every tiny bit must be recorded in exact dimensions and weight. There are difficulties for the passage through India with a German truck, cargo must be carried out by Indian carriers only. Endless palaver between J. Reier, Indian Ambassador and the Nepalese Ministry of Transport. Ultimately, King Birendra himself becomes our Executive Board, our German number plates had been replaced by a Royal Nepalese diplomat number – in order to get through India.
Departure of the first container to Calcutta. Finally, the main components are on the road, in 3 months, they will hopefully be in Munich. Far too late for a smooth construction, we must now work all winter. The first trip down to Calcutta includes the inner pagoda construction, eight meters long, finely carved beams. Since they do not fit into the container, they have to be moored to the chassis of the truck with ropes. All components must first be sealed by the archaeological department, only thus can they be exported. The museum people want to examine our wooden pillars on all sides, which is technically impossible. 24 pcs x 400 KG spin, each and every tiny bit must be recorded in exact dimensions and weight. There are difficulties for the passage through India with a German truck, cargo must be carried out by Indian carriers only. Endless palaver between J. Reier, Indian Ambassador and the Nepalese Ministry of Transport. Ultimately, King Birendra himself becomes our Executive Board, our German number plates had been replaced by a Royal Nepalese diplomat number, which finally gets us through India.
Arrival in Calcutta, sweaty race between shipping company, agents and port. Endless paperwork, no loading crane. No customs people. No dock workers. Our chairman goes nuts, running out of time with the eternal strikes in communist Bengal.
Praise be, the container is loaded!
Departure from Calcutta with new container and loaded freight for the Swiss Embassy in Kathmandu.
J. Reier arrives injured in Kathmandu after a horror ride with a 15-ton container fallen off the chassis, the windshield shot to pieces during a robbery. No woman no cry. At least the carvings are almost complete.
Second cargo is to be sealed, again trouble with museum people. Repeated running around to all the ministries. Our board claims that this bureaucracy is equivalent to several robberies at once.
Loaded, far too late. Hasty departure for Calcutta.
The Hapac Lloyd ship to Hamburg just reached in time after nonstop driving. Calcutta docks are life threatening!
Departure from Calcutta with freight for the German Embassy.
Arrival in Kathmandu. Carvings are still not all complete. The bronze animals are not ready yet.
Sealing and loading, arrival in Calcutta.
Chairman Reier flies to Hamburg for the unloading of the first container to be filmed for the making of documentary. Transport to the Munich-IGA site.
Commencement of construction phase. The container is unloaded with a crane. The threshold beams to be anchored, a framework has been set.
The first columns are set up, it gets serious. Two Nepalese workers are flown in to Munich to help build the pagoda in the old tradition. Muni is carver and Puni carpenter.
Size 22.00 x 22.00 ft., main roof 34.00 x 34.00 ft., top roof, 19.00 x 19.00 ft., height overall 38.00 ft. Weigth: 80 tons. Two floors with a total of 48 carved wooden pillars and 48 beam struts (different images of deities). Roofs are decorated with 76 bronze bells, the Gajur (roof top) is gold plated. Wood: Dalbergia Sisso, the threshold beams are made from Salwood, both harder than oak. Even in ice and snow APAC continues to erect, many nights had been used as well. Completion: one hour before the IGA inauguration on April 28, 1983.
A total of one million man-hours were spent on the construction of the Munich Peace Pagoda!
Executing Organisation: APAC and many friends.
Idea and overall concept, as well as the girl for EVERYTHING:
Jochen Reier, Architect, Chairman APAC.