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kinkaku-ji kyoto, kinkaku-ji temple
Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺, literally "Temple of the Golden Pavilion", officially named Rokuon-ji 鹿苑寺, literally "Deer Garden Temple", is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan2 It is one of the most popular buildings in Japan, attracting a large number of visitors annually3 It is designated as a National Special Historic Site and a National Special Landscape, and it is one of 17 locations making up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which are World Heritage Sites4


  • 1 History
  • 2 Design details
    • 21 Architectural design
    • 22 Garden design
  • 3 Gallery
  • 4 See also
  • 5 Notes
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 External links


Painted photograph of the Golden Pavilion in 1885 The Gold leaf is peeling off due to deterioration over time

The site of Kinkaku-ji was originally a villa called Kitayama-dai 北山第, belonging to a powerful statesman, Saionji Kintsune5 Kinkaku-ji's history dates to 1397, when the villa was purchased from the Saionji family by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and transformed into the Kinkaku-ji complex5 When Yoshimitsu died, the building was converted into a Zen temple by his son, according to his wishes36

Golden Pavilion following the 1950 arson

During the Onin war 1467–1477, all of the buildings in the complex aside from the pavilion were burned down5

On July 2, 1950, at 2:30 am, the pavilion was burned down by a 22-year-old novice monk, Hayashi Yoken, who then attempted suicide on the Daimon-ji hill behind the building He survived, and was subsequently taken into custody The monk was sentenced to seven years in prison, but was released because of mental illnesses persecution complex and schizophrenia on September 29, 1955; he died of tuberculosis in March, 19567 During the fire, the original statue of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was lost to the flames now restored A fictionalized version of these events is at the center of Yukio Mishima's 1956 book The Temple of the Golden Pavilion2

The present pavilion structure dates from 1955, when it was rebuilt2 The pavilion is three stories high, approximately 125 meters in height8 The reconstruction is said to be a copy close to the original, although some doubt such an extensive gold-leaf coating was used on the original structure3 In 1984, 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 05 µm instead of 01 µm, was completed in 1987 Additionally, the interior of the building, including the paintings and Yoshimitsu's statue, were also restored Finally, the roof was restored in 2003 The name Kinkaku is derived from the gold leaf that the pavilion is covered in Gold was an important addition to the pavilion because of its underlying meaning The gold employed was to mitigate and purify any pollution or negative thoughts and feelings towards death9 Other than the symbolic meaning behind the gold leaf, the Muromachi period heavily relied on visual excesses10 With the focus on the Golden Pavilion, how the structure is mainly covered in that material, creates an impression that stands out because of the sunlight reflecting and the effect the reflection creates on the pond

Design detailsedit

Roof ornament

The Golden Pavilion 金閣, Kinkaku is a three-story building on the grounds of the Rokuon-ji temple complex11 The top two stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf11 The pavilion functions as a shariden 舎利殿, 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 Kyoto2 When these buildings were constructed, Ashikaga Yoshimasa employed the styles used at Kinkaku-ji and even borrowed the names of its second and third floors2

Architectural designedit

The fishing deck and small islets at the rear of the pavilion

The pavilion successfully incorporates three distinct styles of architecture which are shinden, samurai, and zen, specifically on each floor8 Each floor of the Kinkaku uses a different architectural style2

The first floor, called The Chamber of Dharma Waters 法水院, Hou-sui-in, is rendered in shinden-zukuri style, reminiscent of the residential style of the 11th century Heian imperial aristocracy2 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 plaster8 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 pavilion8 and change the view by controlling the shutters' heights The second floor, called The Tower of Sound Waves 潮音洞, Chou-on-dou ,2 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, Kannon8 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 究竟頂, Kukkyou-chou The zen typology depicts a more religious ambiance in the pavilion, as was popular during the Muromachi period8

The roof is in a thatched pyramid with shingles12 The building is topped with a bronze phoenix phoenix ornament11 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 shrines9 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

Garden designedit

White Snake Pagoda of Kinkaku-ji

The Golden Pavilion is set in a magnificent Japanese strolling garden 回遊式庭園, kaiyū-shiki-teien, lit a landscape garden in the go-round style6 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 鏡湖池, Mirror Pond, that reflects the building5 The pond contains 10 smaller islands8 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 literature8 Vantage points and focal points were established because of the strategic placement of the pavilion to view the gardens surrounding the pavilion10 A small fishing deck 釣殿, tsuri-dono is attached to the rear of the pavilion building, allowing a small boat to be moored under it5 The pavilion grounds were built according to descriptions of the Western Paradise of the Buddha Amida, intending to illustrate a harmony between heaven and earth6 The largest islet in the pond represents the Japanese islands5 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 mythology5

The garden complex is an excellent example of Muromachi period garden design11 The Muromachi period is considered to be a classical age of Japanese garden design10 The correlation between buildings and its settings were greatly emphasized during this period10 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 setting13 A minimalistic approach was brought to the garden design, by recreating larger landscapes in a smaller scale around a structure13


See alsoedit

  • Japan portal
  • Buddhism portal
  • Gardening portal
  • Architecture portal
  • List of Special Places of Scenic Beauty, Special Historic Sites and Special Natural Monuments
  • Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities
  • Ginkaku-ji
  • Shōkoku-ji
  • Wikimedia Commons Gallery of Kinkaku-ji
  • Tourism in Japan


  1. ^ "Tourist Facilities of Japan - Kinkaku-ji Temple Garden" Japan National Tourism Organization Retrieved 2010-07-15 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Kinkakuji Temple - 金阁寺, Kyoto, Japan" Oriental Architecture Retrieved 2010-07-13 
  3. ^ a b c Bornoff, Nicholas 2000 The National Geographic Traveler: Japan National Geographic Society ISBN 0-7922-7563-2
  4. ^ "Places of Interest in Kyoto Top 15 most visited places in Kyoto by visitors from overseas" Asano Noboru Retrieved 2010-07-15 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto" Asano Noboru Retrieved 2010-07-15 
  6. ^ a b c Scott, David 1996 Exploring Japan Fodor's Travel Publications, Inc ISBN 0-679-03011-5
  7. ^ Albert Borowitz 2005 Terrorism for self-glorification: the Herostratos syndrome Kent State University Press pp 49–62 ISBN 978-0-87338-818-4 Retrieved 1 July 2011  See: Herostratos syndrome
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Young, David, and Michiko Young The art of Japanese Architecture North Claredon, VT: Turtle Publishing, 2007 N pag Print
  9. ^ a b Gerhart, Karen M The material culture of Death in medieval Japan Np: University of Hawaii Press, 2009 N pag Print
  10. ^ a b c d “Pregil, Philip, and Nancy Volkman Landscapes in HIstory: Design and Planning in the Eastern and Western tradition Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc, 1992 N pag Print”
  11. ^ a b c d Eyewitness Travel Guides: Japan Dorling Kindersley Publishing 2000 ISBN 0-7894-5545-5
  12. ^ Young, David, Michiko Young, and Tan Hong The material culture of Death in medieval Japan North Claredon, VT: Turtle Publishing, 2005 N pag Print
  13. ^ a b Boults, Elizabeth, and Chip Sullivan Illustrated History of Landscape Design Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons INc, 2010 N pag Print


  • Boults, Elizabeth, and Chip Sullivan Illustrated History of Landscape Design Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Son, 2010
  • Gerhart, Karen M The Material Culture of Death in Medieval Japan Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2009
  • Pregil, Philip, and Nancy Volkman Landscapes in History: Design and Planning in the Eastern and Western Tradition Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 1992
  • Young, David, and Michiko Young The Art of Japanese Architecture North Claredon, VT: Turtle Publishing, 2007
  • Young, David, Michiko Young, and Tan Hong Introduction to Japanese Architecture North Claredon, VT: Periplus, 2005

Further readingedit

  • Schirokauer, Conrad; Lurie, David; Gay, Suzanne 2005 A Brief History of Japanese Civilization Wadsworth Publishing ISBN 978-0-618-91522-4 OCLC 144227752

External linksedit

  • Official site of Kinkaku-ji Japanese language
  • Live camera feed of Kinkaku-ji Japanese language
  • Oriental Architecture - Kinkakuji Temple
  • Omamori Charms Amulets of Kinkaku-ji Temple

Coordinates: 35°02′22″N 135°43′46″E / 3503944°N 13572944°E / 3503944; 13572944

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