The former imperial city of Kyoto, formerly Heian-kyo, was the cultural center of Japan for over 1000 years. Over 1500 Buddhist temples, 200 Shinto shrines, palaces, castles and unique gardens bear witness to their importance. Outstanding structures include the Daigoji Pagoda, the Shinto Shimogamo shrine and the Golden Pavilion.
|Official title:||Monuments and gardens of the Imperial City of Kyoto|
|Cultural monument:||the former imperial city of Kyoto; of the more than 1500 Buddhist temples and 200 Shinto shrines are UNESCO World Heritage monuments: Kamigamo-jinja, Shimogamo-jinja, Kyô’ô Gokoku-ji (Tô-ji), Kiyomizu-dera, Nin’na-ji, Daigo- ji, Kôzan-ji, Saihô-ji, Tenryû-ji, Rokuon-ji, Jishô-ji, Ryôan-ji, Nishi-Hongan-ji, Nijô-jô; in Otsu: Enryaku-ji; in Uji: Byôdô-in and Ujikami-jinja|
|Location:||Kyoto, Uji and Otsu, southwest of Tokyo|
|Meaning:||Former cultural center of Japan with outstanding garden art and wooden architecture|
|781-806||Reign of the Kammu-Tennô|
|794-1192||Heian period, at the beginning of which the founding of Heian-kyô, today’s Kyoto|
|788||Construction of the Enryaku-ji|
|798||Construction of the original structure of Kiyomizu-dera, one of the most famous temples in Kyoto|
|886||Construction of the Nin’na-ji|
|951||Construction of the five-story pagoda of Daigo-ji|
|1394||Construction of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji)|
|1467-77||extensive destruction of Kyoto during the Ônin war|
|1482||Construction of the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji)|
|1603-26||Construction of the Nijô-jô|
|1633||Construction of the current main hall of Kiyomizu-dera|
|1955||Reconstruction of the burned down Golden Pavilion in Rokuon-ji|
“Capital of Peace”
In Europe, the year 794 was when the Kammu-Tennô moved his residence to the plain of the Kamo River, as this place was protected by mountains from the evil spirits invading from the north. The emperor had chosen Tamayori-hime – the daughter of the sea god, also known as Mioya-no-kami and mother of Jimmu-Tennô, the first Japanese emperor – and the thunder god Wake-Ikazuchi as the patron gods of the city called the “capital of peace”.
Together with 15 other monuments of the imperial city later simply called Kyoto, “capital”, the shrines Kamigamo-jinja and Shimogamo-jinja, dedicated to their Shinto patron gods, are now under UNESCO protection. The oldest buildings of the two sanctuaries date from the first half of the 17th century, the main buildings even from the beginning of the second half of the 19th century.
A number of protected Buddhist temples go back to the Heian period, most notably the Enryaku-ji from the 8th century. Erected by imperial orders on Mount Hiei to protect against evil spirits, it soon developed into a great temple, whose belligerent bonzen terrorized the people and emperors. It was only Oda Nobunaga who mastered the nuisance by destroying all buildings and killing the monks in the 16th century. However, decades later, the facility was magnificently rebuilt.
Hardly anything has survived from the original buildings of early Kyoto: The monks of Enryaku-ji and above all the terrible Ônin war took care of that; Earthquakes and fires did the rest. This applies to the Kyô’ô Gokoku-ji, which was founded in 796 and is mostly known as the Eastern Temple, as well as to the Kiyomizu-dera or the Nin’na-ji, built daringly on a wooden frame on a steep slope. The five-story, 37-meter-high pagoda of Daigo-ji, the oldest building in Kyoto, has been preserved because the temple was far enough outside the city to avoid destruction.
The same applies to the oldest existing Shinto building in Ujikami-jinja – it dates from the Heian period – and the Byôdô-in in Uji. Its Phoenix Hall, built in 1053, is reminiscent of a bird about to land and thus arouses associations with the Buddha Amida descending to earth.
The moss garden of the Saihô-ji, usually called the »moss temple«, the rock garden of the Ryôan-ji with its »sea« of raked gravel from which five bizarre rock islands protrude, and the landscape garden of the Tenryû-ji, founded in 1336, are particularly influenced by Zen Buddhism. ji. The Zen garden of Jishô-ji is famous above all for its sand hill, reminiscent of Mount Fuji, which rises behind a carefully laid out “sea of silver sand” in front of the Silver Pavilion from 1482. The fact that this was never covered with silver does not detract from its beauty and grace. In addition, he was spared the fate of the Golden Pavilion, which was around a hundred years older: in 1950, a mentally confused Buddhist novice could no longer stand the splendor of the Golden Pavilion and set the gilded wooden building on fire.
The lavishly furnished buildings of the Nishi-Hongan-ji date from the early 17th century or were moved here from the palace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in Fushimi. The wonderful Hiunkaku, the “Flying Clouds Pavilion,” originally stood in Hideyoshi’s Juraku mansion.
The Nijô-jô, completed by the Tokugawa shoguns, served them as a residence during their stays in Kyoto after they had relocated their government to Edo in 1603. According to softwareleverage, with its old Japanese alarm system, the “nightingale parquet” that screeches with every step, and its splendid furnishings, the castle is a symbol of the power and impotence of the shoguns at the same time. As the Meiji-Tennô abolished the shogunate by edict in 1867 and renamed Edo Tô-kyô, “Eastern Capital”, the following year, the Nijô-jô is not only a symbol for the beginning and end of the Edo period, but also for the end of the not particularly peaceful history of Kyoto’s capital and residence.