Circle of Animals features twelve enormous bronze animal heads, each depicting a segment of the Chinese zodiac. Ai Weiwei's first piece of public art, it is an extraordinary accomplishment in its own right. But as this book explains, the origins and motivation behind the piece are as compelling as the work itself. Ai Weiwei based the sculpture on a similar work that was built for an imperial retreat in the eighteenth century. When the palace was looted by European soldiers, the sculpture was stolen-only seven of the twelve heads survive. By reimagining the work Ai Weiwei confronts uncomfortable truths within Chinese and Western history. This book compares Ai Weiwei's work to the original sculpture; features interviews with Ai Weiwei conducted at various periods during the sculpture's development; offers a historical overview of the events surrounding the original sculpture's looting; and follows the trail of the original heads as they are sold and resold amidst political furore. The book tells the riveting story behind a highly acclaimed piece of modern art, while providing an introduction to one of our generation's most important artists.