Burgess Shale–type fossil Lagerstätten provide the best evidence for deciphering the biotic patterns and magnitude of the Cambrian explosion. Here, we report a Lagerstätte from South China, the Qingjiang biota (~518 million years old), which is dominated by soft-bodied taxa from a distal shelf setting. The Qingjiang biota is distinguished by pristine carbonaceous preservation of labile organic features, a very high proportion of new taxa (~53%), and preliminary taxonomic diversity that suggests it could rival the Chengjiang and Burgess Shale biotas. Defining aspects of the Qingjiang biota include a high abundance of cnidarians, including both medusoid and polypoid forms; new taxa resembling extant kinorhynchs; and abundant larval or juvenile forms. This distinctive composition holds promise for providing insights into the evolution of Cambrian ecosystems across environmental gradients.