Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)
All that glitters isn't gold.
The brother temple to the famous Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji) doesn’t actually have any silver applied to its exterior. But it’s precisely this lack of adornment that makes it special. In its understated elegance, Ginkaku-ji embodies the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi – the art of finding beauty in imperfection.
Buried in the shadows of Higashiyama’s mountain range, Ginkaku-ji Temple was originally constructed as a mountain villa for shoguns (military commanders), away from Kyoto’s bustling city center. The mastermind behind the Silver Pavilion, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, was a shogun himself who turned his back on politics to pursue a quest for beauty. Yoshimasa’s taste, though, was by no means conventional.
Based upon an aesthetic rooted in Zen philosophy, Ginkaku-ji Temple oozes wabi-sabi everywhere from its faded, wooden panels (once varnished in black lacquer) to the stone garden that invokes a feeling of cleansing and renewal. Another example of wabi-sabi on the temple grounds is a sea of raked white sand leading to a towering cone – a landscape created for moon gazing.
Apparently the dry garden is modeled after a celebrated lake near Hangzhou, China while the sand pyramid is the mirror-image of Mount Fuji. Both sand shapes are religious metaphors for enlightenment, with the moon and its reflection symbolizing an illumination of consciousness. Following in the footsteps of wabi-sabi, Gingaku-ji’s moss garden reflects beauty in the inevitable aging process: otherwise known in Zen as impermanence.