Kyoto lecture by Dr Matthew Stavros

4 October, 2012

Japanese Department academic Matthew Stavros is currently Visiting Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Japan. An upcoming talk he is giving for the Kyoto Asian Studies Group is detailed below.

Kitayama: Exurban Enclave in the Model of an Imperial Capital
Dr Matthew Stavros
Tuesday 9 October 2012

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 the “King of Japan.”

This lecture will introduce the material composition and functions of Kitayama during Yoshimitsu’s time with the aim of suggesting that the vast temple-palace complex might have been conceived as a Chinese-style imperial capital in miniature. Just as Heian-kyo was planned in the 8th century, in part, to be an emblem of Japan’s achievement of Chinese-style civilization, so too does it appear Kitayama was meant to impress upon foreign dignitaries Yoshimitsu’s subscription to continental notions of material pageantry. 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 early findings and, as such, will benefit greatly from the input of attendees.