Japan is characterized by a very complex and long history that had a significant impact on all spheres of human life, including art, culture, and architecture. The Golden Pavilion and the Silver Pavilion are very important religious structures that reflect the ideology, philosophy, and politics of the state at the time when they were constructed.
These temples were both built in the Japanese city of Kyoto that had been the capital of the state for more than a thousand years and abounds in important historical landmarks. They are located close to one another in the neighboring wards of the city. The Golden Pavilion called Kinkaku-ji is in the ward Kita-ku and the Silver Pavilion named Ginkaku-ji in Japanese is located closer to the north-east borders of the city (Ching, Jarzombek, and Prakash 206). The buildings are constructed taking into account the humid subtropical climate of the region. They had to endure hot and humid summer, but at the same time they should protect the visitors from relatively cold winters with occasional snowfalls. Moreover, the architects of the temples should remember that the buildings could be badly affected by the typhoons that are quite typical for the region at the beginning of autumn. The humidity of the region is also explained by the close location to the three rivers, namely the Ujigawa to the south, the Katsuragawa to the west, and the Kamogawa to the east (Dougill 32). The climatic conditions of the region are very important not only for the architecture of the temples, but also for the surrounding gardens that are crucial for almost all Japanese religious monuments (Young and Young 82).
From the social perspective, these two temples are also quite similar as they were both originally planned as private villas without any references to the religion. Therefore, their location and the structure of inner premises were planned to satisfy the needs of one family and their guests, but not to accommodate huge flows of people who usually come to the temples to pray. Although both buildings were commissioned by the representatives of upper class families, the Golden Pavilion is a much larger scale project in contrast to the Silver Pavilion. Dougill describes it as "a project intended to reflect the greatness of its maker" (85). He also adds that "in 1408 it was the first recorded stay of an emperor in the house of a non-aristocrat took place" (Dougill 86). However, the current state of the temples reflects different approaches to the aesthetics of these buildings popular in the Japanese society. The Golden Pavilion is fully renovated and covered with the shining plates of gold. Although this temple was burnt by a monk in 1950, in 1955 it was completely restored in the form it existed for centuries. This approach reflects the ideas about contemporary Japan that is aimed at constant improving and modernization. It is also considered that the temple in its full glory would attract more tourists that would positively affect the economy of the city. However, the current state of the Silver Pavilion is explained by the so-called wabi-sabi aesthetics when imperfection is highly praised. Yoshimasa, the original owner of the building, wanted to cover it with silver plates to reflect light and shimmering of pond surface, but it was never done before his death. The current state of this temple renovation corresponds to the time when Yoshimasa last saw it. Such "unfinished" and imperfect condition perfectly reflects the views and aesthetic of more traditional part of Japanese society. The two approaches to the current state of the temples are exceptionally characteristic of modern Japan that manages to organically combine the old and the new in almost all spheres of social life.
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Both buildings are Zen Buddhist temples. The Japanese Zen is a special variant of Chinese Zen Buddhism that is heavily influenced by the local Japanese traditions and cults. As this type of Buddhism strongly emphasizes dhyana concentration-meditation, most of the Japanese temples devoted to Zen have inner areas aimed at providing the monks and the visitors with some private space for meditation. The Golden Pavilion and the Silver Pavilion are no exception. It was especially easy to find such areas as the private villas of such size usually have some areas devoted to such purposes. These structures also belong to the same school of Japanese Zen Buddhism, called the Rinzai sect. As both buildings were transformed into temples during the Muromachi period, it was obvious that they were reconstructed as Rinzai temples as this school was especially favored by the Shogun (Nute 201). Another similarity of the Golden Pavilion and the Silver Pavilion is that they did not belong to the major temples defined by the Five Mountain System, so they were not very popular within the period of several centuries after their construction.
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To conclude, the Golden Pavilion and the Silver Pavilion are perfect examples of Japanese medieval architecture. They have a number of important similarities as they were built almost within one century and are devoted to the same religion. They are located several kilometers from one another, so the climatic conditions are almost identical for them. These temples are also similar in terms of their social functions and history as they were both originally planned as private villas and only later turned into religious structures.