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While staying in Kyoto, the former capital city of Japan presently considered as the religious centre of Japan we visited a number of temples or temple complexes. Two of them were Zen Buddhist temples with small buildings called Pavilions at their focus – the Temple of the Silver Pavilion and the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Both Pavilions were commissioned ages ago by Japanese Shoguns: a grandfather (Golden Pavilion) and a grandson (Silver Pavilion).

Ginkaku-ji or Temple of the Silver Pavilion officially named Jishō-ji or Temple of the Shining Mercy was originally a villa with a garden – a place of rest and solitude for the ShogunIts founder a Shogun living in the XV century arranged however that after his death it became a Zen temple. Initially the building was to be covered with silver foil. It was however never painted with silver.

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The temple is surrounded by a garden, laid out naturally Japanese style. In comparison to other gardens we saw the majority of it was just a natural forest, bushes and moss climbing a mountain. A small area of it was covered with a bamboo forest. The lower parts were more artificially taken care for with ponds surrounded with stone and moss arrangements, as well as pruned trees.

Already in other gardens we saw paths of gravel or gravel raked to form water like patterns. But here, the first time we saw raked sand field and a symmetric pile of sand formed  with much care. At the first sight I thought the gardeners prepared soil for some plants. The sand arrangement and the pile of sand are however the part of the garden’s decoration. The pile is said to symbolize Mount Fuji. On the garden schematic the sand arrangement was described as ‘Ginshadan, the Silver Sand Sea’ and the sand pile as ‘Kogetsudai, the Moon Viewing Sand Mound’.

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The sand as well as gravel arrangements are a feature of the so called Japanese rock gardens (>>>).

Below some other pictures of the Ginkaku-ji garden arrangements.

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