Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan

Southern Xiangtangshan

Southern Xiangtangshan
A view of southern Xiangtangshan.
View an interactive plan of the site’s seven caves »

A few miles from northern Xiangtangshan, the seven caves of southern Xiangtangshan are arranged in two levels and cut into a stone cliff more than thirty feet high. Although their floor plans resemble those at the northern site, these caves are smaller because they were not sponsored by imperial patrons. Cave 2, on the lower level, housed the most important and largest figures at the site.

The southern caves show a pervasive use of freestanding sculpture created from quarried stone. On many altars, the central Buddha and the innermost flanking figures were carved from the rock of the cave itself. The other sculptures were made separately and set into sockets hollowed in the floor—making them relatively easy to remove from the site undamaged.