Matthew Stavros

Monumentalism and Power in Medieval Kyoto
Part II: The Kitayama Villa

  • Time: Vortrag musste abgesagt werden! Do., 24. Nov. 2015, 18:30
  • Venue: Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften, Japanologie, Seminarraum 1
  • AAKH Campus, Hof 2, Spitalgasse 2, 1090 Wien
    Google Maps
  • Organisation: Bernhard Scheid
  • Cooperation: Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften Universität Wien; Akademischer Arbeitskreis Japan (AAJ)


The Golden Pavilion is Kyoto’s most celebrated and well known architectural monument. It is a UNESCO World Heritage property and testament to the influence and affluence of the warrior-aristocrat Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358–1408). Despite Kinkaku’s opulence and architectural originality, the attention given this single structure overshadows the history of the much larger complex within which it was originally built in the late 14th century: The Kitayama Villa (Kitayama-dono).

This paper explores Kitayama’s material composition to demonstrate that the villa was a vast temple-palace complex built to resemble a Chinese-style imperial capital. Just as Kyoto had been 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 symbolize Yoshimitsu’s subscription to continental notions of material pageantry.

The site’s several palaces, temples, and function-specific gates served to facilitate pageantry that sharpened Yoshimitsu’s multifaceted identity, at once a retired court official, reigning “King of Japan,” and a monarch in the idiom of Buddhist kingship. Textual, archeological, and pictorial sources are synthesized to reconstruct a model of the complex, which is then projected onto modern satellite images to show Kitayama’s vastness as well as the ways its several constituent elements facilitated the intense religious, cultural, and diplomatic engagement that typified the era.

See also the first part of this lecture on the Muromachi Palace.


Matthew Stavros is a historian of early Japan at the University of Sydney and the author of Kyoto: An Urban History of Japan’s Premodern Capital (Hawai`i UP, 2014). His research focuses primarily on the urban and architectural history of Japan to 1700, with interests extending to religion, material culture, and monumentalism in East and Southeast Asia. He trained in architectural and urban history at Kyoto University and read history at Princeton University, where he earned a PhD in East Asian Studies. He teaches on all periods of Japanese history and historiography, research methods in Asian Studies, classical Japanese, and more broadly on the histories and cultures of East Asia. (See also his personal web project.)