Seminar Series | Kitayama: A Capital for the King of Japan

29 April, 2013
5.00 - 6.30pm

Matthew Stavros
The University of Sydneykinkaku

The Zen temple of Rokuonji is well known today as the home of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku), a UNESCO World Heritage property and monument to the power and artistic energy of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408). Despite the Golden Pavilion’s beauty and architectural originality, the attention given this single structure overshadows a much more important history of the greater temple-palace complex where it was built in the late 14th century. Originally known as “Kitayama-dono,” Yoshimitsu’s retirement villa was used by the former shogun as a venue for engaging in international diplomacy, including the formal reception of no less than six envoys from the Ming and Choson courts between 1402 and 1407.  It was at Kitayama, in fact, where Yoshimitsu—who had otherwise given up all formal ranks and posts—famously received a letter from the Ming emperor in 1402 addressing him as “King of Japan.” In this seminar, I introduce the material composition and functions of Kitayama during Yoshimitsu’s time, suggesting that the vast temple-palace complex might have been conceived as a Chinese-style imperial capital in miniature. The site’s several palaces, temples, and function-specific gates also served to sharpen Yoshimitsu’s bifurcated identity, at once a retired court official as well as reigning “King of Japan.” The research presented here is based on preliminary findings and, as such, will benefit greatly from the input of attendees.


Matthew Stavros specializes in early Japanese history, focusing in particular on architecture and urban planning. He is the author of Kyoto: An Urban History of Japan’s Premodern Capital, forthcoming from the University of Hawaii press.


Location: SLC Common Room 524, Brennan MacCallum Building

Contact:Eileen Rose Walsh
Phone: 61 2 9351 6770

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