Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ginkakuji Pt 1 - The Silver Pavilion on the Silver Sands

31st October, 2006 - We've come to one of my personal highlights of our trip to Kyōto... Ginkakuji... The Silver Pavilion. Now, I'm sure when you look at the photo above of the aforementioned pavilion you may be thinking "what the...!" This? A highlight? Well, I have to admit the pavilion itself is not that much to look upon... but you have to use a bit of imagination, and also be prepared for a walk... so come join me on this 2 part journey.

The Silver Pavillion is a reference to the earlier completed Golden Pavillion (Kinkakuji). The temple, whose proper name is Jishoji, was constructed by the eighth Ashikaga shogun, Yoshimasa - who had come to be shogun at the ripe old age of eight. Construction originally started in 1460, but with work began in earnest only after his retirement in 1480. As was their wont, the shogun tired of the worldly concerns and turned his back on troubles that beset the country, and began looking for retreat in moon-gazing, tea ceremonies, and dreams of the return of a simpler Heian period.

The first floor is known as the Heart of Emptiness Hall (Shinkuden), and the second floor was known as the Hall of Roaring Waves (Choonden)

The other notable garden is the dry garden which consists of the Sea of Silver Sand (Ginshadan) and the Moon Viewing Platform (Kogetsudai).
The Sea of Silver Sand, Ginshadan

Ginshadan was said to reflect a noted lake in China, and some believe that the Kogestudai refers to the image of Fuji-zan as seen from Sagami Bay. It is however more likely that this strange cone shaped structure was designed to reflect the moons light - and potentially to appear like the moon caught on the water's surface when seen from above. These, as with many of the dry gardens, were designed to be viewed at night, under the light of the moon. Either way, it remains an enigmatic vista before the verdant hills that threaten to envelope it.

The Moon-Viewing Platform...Kogetsudai

The temple was completed in 1482. Whilst the temples is now known as the Silver Pavillion – and it never coated in silver film – unlike it's Golden counterpart. Yoshimasa decreed that, on his death, his private oasis would be converted into a proper Zen temple. The temple now belongs to the Shōkokuji temple, of the Rinzai Zen sect.
The Bridge Welcoming Immortals... Geisenbashi
Yoshimasa is generally considered the designer of the gardens that surround the pavilion. This included the extensive use of very expensive rocks surrounding the Brocade Mirror Pond (Kinkyochi).

The Hall of the Eastern Quest, the Togu-do, is said to be where Yoshimasa lived, and includes a tea-room at the back known as the Dojinsai tea room.
The Hall of the Eastern Quest, Togu-do
The temple grounds has two distinct zones... the lower zone where the temple and lakes can be found; and the upper zone where nature and garden blur beautifully - but we'll see that next post. There are many beautiful areas in the lower zone, and many minutes can be spent wandering around down here alone.

The Sengetsusen... Moon Cleansing Fountain

The Muromachi Period would become famous for the aesthetic pursuits of the aristocracy – also known as the Higashiyama culture – despite the violence and turmoil that surrounded it. Of the original buildings, only the Silver Pavillion itself, and the Togu-do have survived the various fires.

Ironically, whilst Yoshimasa longed for a peaceful retirement, a dispute between his original choice of successor and the child that came later would be the origin of the Onin war (1467-77) in which Kyōto was almost entirely destroyed. Even though the war in the city was over by 1477 AD, most of Japan still struggled with civil unrest. This unrest eventually erupted into outright civil war, and became known as the Warring States Period (sengoku jidai) which ended with Oda Nobunaga in the late 15th century.

By the end of the Onin war, the imperial family was effectively destitute and the Ashikaga shogunate powerless. It therefore represents both the height of the Muromachi aesthetic and the tombstone of 600 years of cultural development as the country slipped rapidly into warring oblivion.
Silver Phoenix atop the Silver Pavilion
The temple was renovated recently - and I understand that is now completed. Having said that - the lower zone of the temple grounds is not what attracts me to this of all temples... that will be discovered in the next post when we visit the upper reaches of the temple grounds.

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  1. Great photos, The one of the geisenbashi is flawless.

  2. Beautiful gardens. There is nothing better than a Japanese garden. I especially love the Zen dry gardens.

  3. I love Japanese gardens too - but in many ways prefer the more natural ones. Perhaps because the flora looks so different to anything that we can find here in Australia.

  4. My missus, zoomz, prefers Ginkaku-ji over Kinkaku-ji. Tranquility versus glamour she says, and she prefers the tranquility. As for me, well, I'm a sucker for dazzling presentation so I side with Ginkaku-ji. zoomz says that I gloss over the surface rather than respect the finer detail. It is an ongoing debate in my household. :-)

  5. For me it's Ginkakuji all the way... not because of the pavilion, but because of the overall sense of balance, and the reward for looking beyond the immediate. If you just pop into Ginkakuji to see the pavilion, you'd be sorely disappointed... but if you spend the time to walk through the trails, it's a totally different experience.

    Having said that, Kinkakuji is the sort of the same, but most people are satisfied if they run in, take a few photos of the main attraction and run out. Both are good experiences (IMO), but my personal preferences are for the natural peace and deeper connection with the mountains and forests.