Kyoto: Ginkaku-ji

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The Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) is a Zen Buddhist temple that was built in 1474 by the Shogun Yoshimasa Ashikaga. Being the Shogun he presumably had nearly unlimited funds to work with. It’s interesting to consider how he spent them.


The gate seems very small and plain compared to many of the other Buddhist temples that we have seen. There are no carved dragons, no flamboyant guardian spirits, almost no ornamentation at all.

Many people say that Zen temples are “austere.” I’m not sure that’s quite the right word. Maybe it’s more a matter of restrained good taste.

After it was imported from China, Zen Buddhism became the religion of the warrior aristocrats. These were gentlemen of refined tastes; men who, when they were not busy slicing each others heads off, occupied themselves with painting and calligraphy, and made high arts out of arranging flowers and serving tea.


Here is the temple’s famous sand garden which features a truncated cone said to represent Mt. Fuji.
Sand Garden

Sand Garden

Sand Garden with Fuji

Fuji Cone

A prototypical tea house.
Tea House





Ginkaku-Ji Rear View

All Entries For This Trip.