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World Heritage / Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto

Criteria: (ii) (iv) | Date of Inscription: 1994 | Location: Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures | Justification for Inscription


Things to see

Rokuon-ji (Kinkaku-ji)

photo by Akisuke Shibata
photo by Akisuke Shibata
photo by Akisuke Shibata
TRokuon-ji Temple belongs to the Sokoku-ji group of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism and is located in the Kita district of Kyoto City but is better known by the name of Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion). Kinkaku-ji Temple is a typical structure representing the Muromachi or Kitayama culture and was first established by the Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and Yoshimochi.
The site for Kinkaku-ji Temple used to belong to the Fujiwara (Saionji) family and in the Kamakura period that started in 1192, Fujiwarano Kintsune built Saionji Temple and a nearby residence for himself and his family.
In 1397 the land was given to Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and a residence to be called Kitayamadai (Kitayama Palace) was soon constructed and even after his son Yoshimochi was appointed shogun, Yoshimitsu continued his political business from the palace.
With Yoshimitsu's death Kitayama Palace became a Zen Buddhist temple with the name Rokuon-ji Temple and to balance this fine specimen of period temple work, some time later the 8th Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built Ginkaku-ji Temple (Silver Pavilion) on the opposite side of the city to pay homage to his grandfather, Yoshimitsu.
The O-nin battle in 1467 swept away most of the buildings of Kinkaku-ji Temple and in the 16th century Saishotai of Shokoku-ji Temple started his renovation of the temple; the current buildings being the result.
Kinkaku-ji Temple used to be on the national treasure list prior to WWII but was burned down by a junior monk in 1950. At that time, a statue of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was destroyed and based on this incident the novelist Yukio Mishima wrote "Kinkaku-ji" - the story of the monk who destroyed this thing of beauty in order to express his love for the building.
In 1955 Kinkaku-ji Temple was reconstructed and while it is no longer a national treasure its shining golden appearance fascinates many visitors.
Kinkaku-ji Temple
Kinkaku-ji Temple is a three-storied reliquary hall - the actual temple being some 20m or so to the east of the Golden Pavilion. Its exterior is finished in gold foil and the original was built in 1397 with the current building a 1955 reconstruction. The Amidado hall was built in the Shinden-zukuri style; the second story in the samurai house style and the third in the Buddha-hall style of Zen Buddhism. This floor is believed to hold Buddha's relics.
The gold foil finish was renovated in 1987 and today its shining reflection in the Kyokochi Pond impresses people from all over the world making the pavilion a symbolic structure said to embody the noble and aristocratic Kitayama culture of lore.
The garden of Kinkaku-ji Temple is designated as both a place of national historical significance and one of national scenery and it is said that this garden was produced to realize Gokurakujodo (the land of Paradise in Buddhism). Its stroll style garden contains a pond and several walkways through this area of dynamic landscapes, manmade and natural.
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