The Golden Temple is one of Kyoto’s most well-known. Originally constructed for a shogun in 1397 as a retirement home, it was converted to a temple after his death.

In 1950, a young and disillusioned monk who believed that beauty doesn’t exist in the world decided to prove that theory true by burning Kinkaku-ji to the ground. His story is fictionalized in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima. In the novel, Mizoguchi grows obsessed with his father’s adage that there is nothing on this earth as beautiful as the Golden Temple, and comes to believe if beauty really exists there, his own image is a thing estranged from beauty. Embittered by the hypocrisy he sees all around him, Mizoguchi continually rationalizes his conviction that beauty synthesizes “the struggles and the contradictions and the disharmonies in every part of this building – and furthermore, it was beauty that ruled over them all!” Convinced that its destruction is his only path to deliverance, he razes the temple to become free.

An exact replica of the original was completed in 1955.

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