Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto

Friday, 1 December 2023 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  6 minutes

© Jaycangel/cc-by-sa-3.0

© Jaycangel/cc-by-sa-3.0

Kinkaku-ji (literally “Temple of the Golden Pavilion”), officially named Rokuon-ji (lit. Deer Garden Temple), is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. It is one of the most popular buildings in Kyoto, attracting many visitors annually. It is designated as a National Special Historic Site, a National Special Landscape and is one of 17 locations making up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which are World Heritage Sites. Kinkaku-ji was ranked the No. 85 Most Holy Place on Earth by religious leaders, writers and scholars in the Patheos multi-faith religion project Sacred Spaces: The 100 Most Holy Places on Earth.

The Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku) is a three-story building on the grounds of the Rokuon-ji temple complex. The top two stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf. The pavilion functions as a shariden, housing relics of the Buddha (Buddha’s Ashes). The building was an important model for Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion Temple) and Shōkoku-ji, which are also located in Kyoto. When these buildings were constructed, Ashikaga Yoshimasa employed the styles used at Kinkaku-ji and even borrowed the names of its second and third floors.

© Geertchaos/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Jaycangel/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Uploader/cc-by-sa-4.0 White Snake Pagoda © Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/cc-by-sa-4.0 Kinkaku-ji garden © Uploader/cc-by-sa-4.0 Entrance and ticket booth © Uploader/cc-by-sa-4.0
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White Snake Pagoda © Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/cc-by-sa-4.0
The pavilion successfully incorporates three distinct styles of architecture, which are shinden, samurai and zen, specifically on each floor. Each floor of the Kinkaku uses a different architectural style. The first floor, called The Chamber of Dharma Waters (Hō-sui-in), is rendered in shinden-zukuri style, reminiscent of the residential style of the 11th century Heian imperial aristocracy. It is evocative of the Shinden palace style. It is designed as an open space with adjacent verandas and uses natural, unpainted wood and white plaster. This helps to emphasize the surrounding landscape. The walls and fenestration also affect the views from inside the pavilion. Most of the walls are made of shutters that can vary the amount of light and air into the pavilion and change the view by controlling the shutters’ heights. The second floor, called The Tower of Sound Waves (Chō-on-dō ), is built in the style of warrior aristocrats, or buke-zukuri. On this floor, sliding wood doors and latticed windows create a feeling of impermanence. The second floor also contains a Buddha Hall and a shrine dedicated to the goddess of mercy, Kannon. The third floor is built in traditional Chinese chán (Jpn. zen) style, also known as zenshū-butsuden-zukuri. It is called the Cupola of the Ultimate (Kukkyō-chō). The zen typology depicts a more religious ambiance in the pavilion, as was popular during the Muromachi period. The roof is in a thatched pyramid with shingles. The building is topped with a bronze hōō (phoenix) ornament. From the outside, viewers can see gold plating added to the upper stories of the pavilion. The gold leaf covering the upper stories hints at what is housed inside: the shrines. The outside is a reflection of the inside. The elements of nature, death, religion, are formed together to create this connection between the pavilion and outside intrusions.

The Golden Pavilion is set in a Japanese strolling garden (kaiyū-shiki-teien, lit. a landscape garden in the go-round style). The location implements the idea of borrowing of scenery (“shakkei”) that integrates the outside and the inside, creating an extension of the views surrounding the pavilion and connecting it with the outside world. The pavilion extends over a pond, called Kyōko-chi (Mirror Pond), that reflects the building. The pond contains 10 smaller islands. The zen typology is seen through the rock composition; the bridges and plants are arranged in a specific way to represent famous places in Chinese and Japanese literature. Vantage points and focal points were established because of the strategic placement of the pavilion to view the gardens surrounding the pavilion. A small fishing hall (tsuri-dono) or roofed deck is attached to the rear of the pavilion building, allowing a small boat to be moored under it. The pavilion grounds were built according to descriptions of the Western Paradise of the Buddha Amida, intending to illustrate a harmony between heaven and earth. The largest islet in the pond represents the Japanese islands. The four stones forming a straight line in the pond near the pavilion are intended to represent sailboats anchored at night, bound for the Isle of Eternal Life in Chinese mythology. The garden complex is an excellent example of Muromachi period garden design. The Muromachi period is considered to be a classical age of Japanese garden design. The correlation between buildings and its settings were greatly emphasized during this period. It was a way to integrate the structure within the landscape in an artistic way. The garden designs were characterized by a reduction in scale, a more central purpose and a distinct setting. A minimalistic approach was brought to the garden design, by recreating larger landscapes in a smaller scale around a structure.

Read more on japan-guide.com – Kinkakuji and Wikipedia Kinkaku-ji (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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