North Site | North Cave
There are three main caves of the Northern Qi period at Northern Xiangtangshan in Wu’an county, in southern Hebei province. The location, now a rural farming and mining area, is recorded to have been a stopping place on the road out of the capital at Yecheng, used by the palace for outfitting the royal entourage. The caves are halfway up the west-facing side of the mountain formerly known as Gushan or Drum Mountain. A stone stele erected in 1159 at Zhilisi, the Buddhist monastery at the base of the mountain, records that the caves were begun in the reign of Wenxuan (r. 550-559), the first emperor of the Northern Qi dynasty. There are no longer any contemporary records of the making of the caves, though it is likely that dedicatory inscriptions at the site would originally have recorded the creation and patronage of the caves. Traces of large stone steles that might formerly have had these inscriptions engraved on them still remain near the entrances to the caves. The only Northern Qi period inscription now existing at the site is the dedication of the engraving of Buddhist scriptures in stone at the South Cave by the Northern Qi official, Tang Yong in 572. Damage to the caves has occurred over the centuries from natural erosion and earthquakes. However, beginning around 1910 and continuing through the early part of the last century, humans have been the cause of the most severe losses. In response to a growing art market, people cut away the heads and hands of most of the images at the Northern Xiangtangshan site. Repairs made soon after and new heads and new figures made to replace the ones that had been taken, allowed local worship at the caves to continue as before.