Photo Gallery

Kinkaku-ji Temple - 金閣寺 (built 1398, destroyed 1950, reconstructed 1955)

The name Kinkaku-ji means the "Temple of the Golden Pavilion". Constructed in Kyoto's northern hills in 1398 by Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga shogun, it was once part of a much larger villa complex. When he died it became a Zen temple in accordance with his will. Sadly, the original temple burned in 1950 when a deranged Buddhist monk set it ablaze. A good dramatization of the arson can be found in the book 'The Temple of the Golden Pavilion' by Yukio Mishima.

Each floor of the Kinkaku-ji is a different style. The first floorócalled The Chamber of Dharma Watersóis inspired by the Heian mansions of the 11th century and often described as the Shinden style. It is merely a large room surrounded by a veranda. The veranda sits beneath the more massive second story and is separated from the interior by reticulated shutters called Shitomido. The Shitomido reach only halfway to the ceiling, allowing ample light and air in the interior.

The second story, called The Tower of Sound Waves, is the Samurai house style. Intended as a Buddha hall, it encloses an icon of the Bodhisattva Kannon.

The third story is built in the Zen style, with cusped windows and ornamentation. Appropriately, it houses an Amida triad and twenty-five Bodhisattvas. A Chinese phoenix crowns the eaves.

Kinkaku-ji serves as an important model for later works, particularly the Silver Pavilion, or Ginkaku-ji, constructed between 1384-1390 by another member of the Ashikaga family, Yoshimasa, who was the 8th shogun. Yoshimasa developed upon the styles employed at Kinkaku-ji and borrowed the names of its 2nd and 3rd floors for his own work.

Like Ginkaku-ji, Kinkaku-ji owes much to the Saihoji temple and moss garden complex of Muso Soseki (1275-1351) built in 1339. Soseki himself is said to have been influenced by the Song dynasty Zen text, The Blue Cliff Record. It is believed that Yoshimasa based his design of Ginkaku-ji on the Lapis Lazuli Pavilion (Ruriden) of Soseki's complex.

Map of Kinkakuji

Site plan of Kinkaku-ji.
Site plan modified and redrawn from the original, which can be found in Japanese Gardens, Design and Meaning, by Michell Bring and Josse Wayembergh. Copyright 1981.

Kikakuji entry ticket

Above: entry ticket.

Location

The approximate location of the temple is 35.039340' N, 135.728859' E (WGS 84 map datum).

Bibliography:

Most images copyright 1987-2003 Professor Robert D. Fiala, Concordia University, Nebraska, USA

Some images compyright 1998 Abraham Ahn and Timothy M. Ciccone

Mosher, Gouverneur. Kyoto: A Contemplative Guide
  Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1986. Rutland, Vermont

Nishi, Kazuo and Kazuo Hozumi. What is Japanese Architecture?
  Kodansha International, 1983. Tokyo and New York

Nitschke, Gunter & Benedikt Taschen. The Architecture of the Japanese Garden.
  Benedikt Taschen Verlag GmbH, 1991. Germany

Schaarschmidt-Richter, Irmtraud & Osamu Mori. Japanese Gardens.
  William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1979. New York and Tokyo


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Heiner Spiegelhauer posted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 10:16 pm:

I had the opportunity to visit Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji as well as other temples in Kyoto in April of this year. Being back home now, it is pleasant to be able to recall what I had seen, and to begin to digest it slowly. Thanks to the authors of this collection!

Lisa Mathis posted on Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:57 pm:

My son is an Architecture student at Souther Poly in Atlanta, GA and he has a group project that he is working on. His group chose the Kinkaku Ji temple as their project and he is trying to locate some type of designs for the temple. Is this something that someone might be able to assist him with. Thank you.

Bananer posted on Mon Mar 11, 2013 3:38 pm:

Does anyone know the significance of the Phoenix on the top?

David Crampton posted on Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:09 pm:

This is not a Zen temple. It is a main training center for the Jodo-shinshu sect, known in the USA as Pure Land. The relationships between the denominations of Buddhism are beyond the scope of comment here.

Mikey posted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 12:16 pm:

What does the ticket say? And where is the station the site talks about

Taszies posted on Sat Oct 29, 2011 7:19 pm:

I liked it very much, but the inside is not open to the public.

Website: http://www.taszies.de
damion posted on Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:26 pm:

i chose this as my project for amazing places

Vijay Kanchan posted on Sun Apr 03, 2011 2:48 am:

Hello to all. My family and I live in Malaysia and want to build a similer (not exact copy) holiday home here. Any inputs regarding interior and exterior are welcome. I am especially looking forward to advice regarding the roof.... Best wishes to all

Michael posted on Sat Jan 29, 2011 3:19 pm:

What does the entry ticket say or mean?

Christiane Breeur posted on Sun Nov 14, 2010 6:08 am:

hello from Belgium, your site is a big help for our school project; my daughter wants to build a scale model of the Golden Temple, its garden and adjacent buildings. Site plan and referenced books are a great help to start for us.

Wesley posted on Thu Mar 18, 2010 7:02 am:

I am doing a project on Japan and I chose the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion.)

Utsuro Bune posted on Wed Nov 25, 2009 8:14 am:

This reminds me of a really interesting article around a Japanese UFO which was discovered washed up on a beach around this period. I have put the link above so you can read more about it.

Website: http://www.ukarea51.com/739/utsuro-bune-japanese-edo-period-ufo-evidence
Mohammad Saber Ali posted on Tue Aug 18, 2009 3:35 am:

This is in deed a masterpiece of world heritage. I personally visited this temple 3 times and still I do like to visit again in future opportunity.

Sonne posted on Sat Apr 18, 2009 10:50 pm:

I visited Kinkaku-ji in 2006 (16th of April). What an amazing building! Beforehand, I just saw it from the picture. Finally in that date I saw i with my own eyes! Woww... beautiful!. Someday I hope another opportunity to visit again.

Japanese Words posted on Tue Mar 31, 2009 11:58 pm:

I have been to Kinkakuji a couple of time, but I never seem to see it on a sunny day.

Website: http://www.japanesewords.net/