Thursday, February 24, 2011

Travel Photo of the Day: The Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji), Kyoto, Japan

While visiting Kyoto, Japan in December 2003, so many people talked about how gorgeous the Golden Pavilion was, I had to take a side trip to see it. They were right, it is spectacular. Kinkakuji, as it is known in Japanese, is a brilliant, shining example of the extravagance of the Kitayama culture: the top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf and each floor represents a different architectural style: the first floor is built in the style of the imperial aristocracy, the second in the style of the warrior aristocrats and the third in traditional Chinese style. It is currently used as a Zen Buddhist temple, but was originally built as a weekend villa for a powerful 13th century Japanese politician. The original building has been burned down and rebuilt in an exact copy twice.

This photo was taken on a cloudy day, just as the sun was breaking through the clouds. The small covered extension on the side is a fishing deck. The temple sits on the edge of Mirror Pond (Kyōko-chi) situated in a lush Japanese-style strolling garden, which is intended to demonstrate the harmonial balance between heaven and earth. Every tree, flower, scultpture and rock is there by design and signifies something in the Zen philosophy. For example, the four stones forming a straight line in the pond near the pavilion are intended to represent sailboats anchored at night, bound for the Isle of Eternal Life.

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