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Chinese hot pot and history of art?


I walked into this hot pot restaurant called The Bull Market (pun intended) with my parents and their friends on a breezy Friday afternoon. As a family, we enjoy eating hot pot, and despite many authentic hot pot restaurants on the streets of Shanghai, we have frequented this specific one for its unfrozen, freshly cut beef.

The dinner was just the usual. My parents and their friends drank and chatted about issues such as the Trade War and the socioeconomic atmospheres of both countries. I listened to their perspectives and I enjoyed the hot pot. However, almost at the end of our dinner, I looked at the wall decoration behind me.

The subject was nothing else but the Great Hall of Bulls from Lascaux, France.

I would never expect this piece of prehistoric artwork dated 28000 to 10000 BCE in a deep dark cave of Lascaux would be reincarnated here, in a modern Chinese hot pot restaurant. Yet there it was, and I was in awe for the rest of the dinner.

Great Hall of Bulls ’ hierarchical scale, composite view of the horns, and repeated contouring all showed ancient people’s generations of reverence for the bulls. Once a physical and spiritual superpower, now bulls are mostly domesticated and destined to be put on the food table. While the artistic and historical legacy still affects our modern world, with the bull market describing a period of strong, upward growth in the stock market and Red Bull, an energy drink, how we interpret art and symbols is a reflection of our contemporary world and lives.

As a Chinese student studying art history in the U.S, I have the unique perspective to contemporary Chinese works of art in the global stage. I hope to give my own five cents on history and art. Welcome!