South Site | Cave 2
Cave 2 (left) was severely damaged in the last century and the front wall repaired. Now little remains of the fine sculptures. Several of the greatest sculptural works from Xiangtangshan now in museums outside China are believed to have been from Cave 2. Looters damaged the façade of the cave as part of the removal of the sculptures. They also took the free-standing figures from the main altar on the front of the central pillar. The missing Buddhist figures were initially repaired with clay figures, so that religious observances could continue, but in the middle decades of the century, when the religion was discouraged, the cave site was used for manufacturing and storage. The central pillar of Cave 2 and its remaining images were blasted with dynamite. Only the halo of the Buddha and the flying divinities around it still remain, showing the former position of the principle image. Some of the rows of small relief Buddha figures on the sides of the central pillar still remain along with inscriptions recording donors’ sponsorship the work. Historic photographs indicate that the altar was much like that of Cave 1 with a seated Buddha and six attendant figures. As in Cave 1, there was a carved relief panel of the Western Paradise of Amitabha located on the front wall above the entrance, an important early representation of this popular Buddhist theme in Chinese art. The niches around the walls once had seated Buddha images but are now largely empty.