Two media that reveal a lot about Nepalese culture, both past and present, are painting and sculpture. Fortunately, there are many fine and well-preserved pieces that have survived the passage of time and thus enable detailed research to be made. Looking briefly at the history of Nepalese painting, it appears that ancient icons and religious paintings entered the Valley during the Lichchhavi period. Lichchhavi inscriptions inform us that traders, monks and Brahmans as well as artists from neighbouring areas, visited Kathmandu Valley from the mid-fifth century A.D. The visitors may have brought religious icons and paintings with them, which served as models for local artists.

The Chinese envoy, Wang Hsuan Tse, who came to Nepal in the seventh century AD; described quite eloquently the houses in the Valley, which at that early time were embellished with sculptures and paintings. Although there are not surviving examples of paintings from the Lichchhavi period, it can be surmised that the murals or wall paintings noticed by the Chinese envuy were just as sophisticated as the surviving pieces of culture from this period.

Religious paintings worshipped as icons are known as Paubha in Nepalbhasa and Thangka in Tibetan. The origin of Paubha or Thangka paintings may be attributed to Nepalese artists as early as the ninth or tenth century.

Nepali sculpture reached its zenith in the Lichchhavi period (A.D. 330 - 879). Stone, copper and bronze images from this period show round faces with slanted eyes. A distinguishing feature of Lichchhavi sculptures is their simplicity. Budhhist deities were carved to show them wearing long sanghatis (a saffrom coloured robe that the Buddhist wear hanging from the shoulders).