North Site | South Cave
The South Cave at Northern Xiangtangshan, like the Middle Cave, preserves its original stupa-form with domed roof and a porch in front. An additional small cave is carved into the dome. The main chamber is an open chamber space with images set around three walls. Each altar has a central Buddha surrounded by six standing figures including bodhisattvas, disciples and pratyekabuddhas. Smaller Buddhas appear in rows on the upper level of the cave. On the ceiling a large lotus blossom is carved in relief.
The work on the cave appears to have been begun, then interrupted, and resumed later by different craftsmen. The main sculpted images show signs of having been created in two stages, with the later mode of carving evident in the group of images on the back wall. The stylistic difference is also evident in the appearance of the heads of figures taken from the cave and now located in museums and private collections outside China. In addition to its sculptural art, the South Cave is very important for its extensive engravings of Buddhist scriptures in stone. These are located inside the cave on the entrance wall, inside the porch, on the exterior wall of the porch, and extending onto the north wall of the courtyard. At the end of the sutra texts, the dedicatory stele of Tang Yong records that the engravings were carried out in the years from 568-572.