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Year of the Horse, 2014

Chinese Horse, Lascaux Cave, France
Chinese Horse, Lascaux Cave, France

Having survived the bizarre and otherworldly polar vortex, which ambushed Chicago this month and transformed the landscape with the coldest temperatures in the city's recorded history, we turn now to the Year of the Horse 2014, which is upon us, and fittingly, take a fresh look at the "Chinese Horse" from Lascaux Cave in France which provides just the warmth and color we crave, as it must also have done for the population of prehistoric nomads who created it.

The Chinese horse painted 15,000-10,000 years ago in Lascaux Cave in the Franco-Cantabrian region of southern France and northern Spain is so-named for its resemblence to the celebrated Tang Dynasty horses painted and sculpted thousands of years later in China.

At the end of the Paleolithic Age, Franco-Cantabria was situated in the Gulf Stream, a generally north-flowing warm ocean current of the North Atlantic which contributed to various favorable factors that made the region a refuge for the earliest Europeans, and here, some of the most dramatic and beautiful paintings in art history survive. The Lascaux horse is one image in the grouping of murals which forms the largest complex and contains the finest examples of Paleolithic paintings in the world. Evolutionary biologists have been occupied recently with the identity of this population but the purpose of these Paleolithic paintings has been debated for about a century. It is certain, of course, that they were intended as a form of communication. Do they illustrate the mythological, provide instruction for some practical purpose such as hunting, serve as divinations or prayers or predictions for the future? Do they prefigure a language ?

The Chinese Horse at Lascaux remains a powerful symbol apt to represent Chinese New Year 2014 ,Year of the Horse beginning on January 31. The Year of the Horse will be a year for high-energy endeavors and will require patience and demand self-improvement. In harmony with the 2014 Horse's attribute element of wood, one should be strong yet flexible, idealistic and cooperative.