The name Xiangtangshan, or 'Mountain of Echoing Halls,' refers to a series of cave sites in southern Hebei, datable by inscriptions and engravings to the Northern Qi period (550-577), a period characterized by significant artistic production. Extant sculpture from Xiangtangshan in private collections are extremely rare, with sculpture from such cave sites as Longmen and Yungang being more commonly seen. While it is nearly impossible to trace the present guardian figure to a specific location within one of the cave complexes forming the Xiantangshang grottoes, it does share in common several features including the distinct type of limestone.
The present figure would have been a part of a larger, and relatively flattened, wall relief. It would have been angled sharply so the figure would be facing the viewer head on, and it was only after the sculpture had been removed and mounted in its present state that the perspective has become slightly skewed. It is quite possible that the present figure was flanking a bodhisattva or Buddha, and may have been part of a much larger frieze similar to one found in the Southern Complex, Cave 2, illustrated by K. Tsiang in the exhibition catalogue, Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Sculptures of Xiangtangshan, Chicago, 2010, pp. 212-13, no. 24, where figures attending a central Buddha can be seen with headdresses similar to that seen on the present figure. The same headdress can also be seen on three related flattened limestone busts of musicians from the North Altar Platform of the Southern Cave Complex, in the collections of the Masaki Art Museum, The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, and the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art, respectively illustrated ibid., p. 243, nos. 40-42.