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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto Japan


Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion Temple) is the informal name of Rokuon-ji ( Deer Garden
Temple) in Kyoto, Japan. It was originally built in 1397 to serve as a retirement villa for
Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, as part of his estate then known as Kitayama. It was his son
who converted the building into a Zen temple of the Rinzai school. The temple was burned
down twice during the Onin War.











The Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku, is a three-story building on the grounds of the temple.
The top two stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf. The pavilion functions
as a shariden, housing relics of the Buddha. The building is often linked or contrasted with
Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion Temple, which is also located in Kyoto. The Golden Pavilion is
set in a magnificent Japanese strolling garden (kaiyu-shiki). The pond in front of it is called
Kyoko-chi (Mirror Pond). There are many islands and stones on the pond that represent the
Buddhist creation story.
In 1950, the pavilion was burned down by a monk, who then attempted suicide on the hill
behind the building. He survived, but during the investigation after the monk's arrest, his
mother was called in to talk with the police; on her way home, she committed suicide by
jumping from her train into a river valley. The monk was sentenced to seven years in prison;
he died of illness during his imprisonment in 1956. At that time, the statue of Ashikaga
Yoshimistu was burned. A fictionalized version of these events is at the center of Yukio
Mishima's 1956 book The Temple of the Golden Pavilion.
The present structure dates from 1955. Recently, the coating of Japanese lacquer was
found a little decayed, and a new coating as well as gilding with gold-leaf, much thicker
than the original coatings, was completed in 1987. Additionally, the interior of the building,
including the paintings, was also restored. Finally, the roof was restored in 2003.
The land where the Golden Pavilion sits was used in the 1220s for a villa belonging to
Saionji Kintsune.

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