Kinkakuji temple – Golden Pavillion (Kyoto) was originally built in 1397 to serve as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, as part of his estate then known as Kitayama. His son converted the building into a Zen temple of the Rinzai school.
The ground floor is said to be built in the tradition of a palace, second floor in the tradition of a samurai and the third floor in the tradition of zen.
The temple was burned down several times during the Ōnin War.
The Golden Pavilion 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.
On the roof is a golden fenghuang or “Chinese phoenix”. The shogun Yoshimitsu’s grandson took Kinkaku-ji as the inspiration for Ginkaku-ji, also a Buddhist temple, which he apparently intended to cover in silver.
The Golden Pavilion has a magnificent Japanese garden. The pond in front of it is called Kyōko-chi (Mirror Pond). There are many islands and stones on the pond that represent the Buddhist creation story – zen.
In 1950, the pavilion was burned down by a mentally disturbed monk – we were told that this story has been fictionalised in Yukio Mishima’s 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. T
he interior of the building, including the paintings were also restored and the roof was restored in 2003.