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Taklamakan Desert (n.)

1.a desert in western China

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Taklamakan Desert (n.)

Taklimakan Desert

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Taklamakan Desert

Taklamakan Desert
Taklamakan desert.jpg
View of the Taklamakan desert
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese 塔克拉玛干沙漠
Traditional Chinese 塔克拉瑪干沙漠
Uyghur name
تەكلىماكان قۇملۇقى

The Taklamakan Desert, also known as Taklimakan and Teklimakan, is a desert in northwest China, in the southwest portion of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It is bounded by the Kunlun Mountains to the south, and the desert Pamir Mountains and Tian Shan (ancient Mount Imeon) to the west and north.

The name is probably an Uyghur borrowing of Arabic tark, "to leave alone/out/behind, relinquish, abandon" + makan, "place".[1][2] Another plausible explanation is that it is derived from Turki taqlar makan, which means "the place of ruins".[3] Popular accounts wrongly claim that Takla Makan means "go in and you will never come out". It may also mean "The point of no return" or "The Desert of Death".[4]

The Taklamakan Desert Ecoregion is a Chinese ecoregion of the Deserts and xeric shrublands Biome.[citation needed]



  Taklamakan Desert and Tarim Basin
  Taklamakan by NASA World Wind
  Sand Dunes in Taklamakan Desert, as seen by NASA Landsat-7

It has an area of 337,000 km2. (130,116 sq. mi.),[5] and includes the Tarim Basin, which is 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) long and 400 kilometres (250 mi) wide. It is crossed at its northern and at its southern edge by two branches of the Silk Road as travelers sought to avoid the arid wasteland.[6] It is the world's second largest shifting sand desert with about 85% made up of shifting sand dunes[7] ranking 18th in size in a ranking of the world's largest non-polar deserts.[8]

In recent years, the People's Republic of China has constructed a cross-desert highway that links the cities of Hotan (on the southern edge) and Luntai (on the northern edge). In recent years, the desert has expanded in some areas, its sands enveloping farms and villages as a result of desertification.


  Desert life near Yarkand
File:Dust Storm in Taklamakan.jpg
A Dust Storm Sweeping the Taklamakan Desert

Taklamakan is a paradigmatic cold desert climate. Given its relative proximity with the cold to frigid air masses in Siberia, extreme lows are recorded in wintertime, sometimes well below −20 °C (−4 °F). During the 2008 Chinese winter storms episode, the Taklamakan was reported to be covered for the first time in its entirety with a thin layer of snow reaching 4 centimetres (1.6 in), with a temperature of −26.1 °C (−15 °F) in some observatories.[9]

Its extreme inland position, virtually in the very heartland of Asia and thousands of kilometres from any open body of water, accounts for the cold character of its nights even during summertime.


  The Molcha (Moleqie) River forms a vast alluvial fan at the southern border of the Taklamakan Desert, as it leaves the Altyn-Tagh mountains and enters the desert in the western part of the Qiemo County. The left side appears blue from water flowing in many streams. The picture is taken in May, when the river is full with the snow/glacier meltwater. [1]

There is very little water in the desert and it is hazardous to cross. Merchant caravans on the Silk Road would stop for relief at the thriving oasis towns.[10]

The key oasis towns, watered by rainfall from the mountains, were Kashgar, Marin, Niya, Yarkand, and Khotan (Hetian) to the south, Kuqa and Turpan in the north, and Loulan and Dunhuang in the east.[6] Now many, such as Marin and Gaochang, are ruined cities in sparsely inhabited areas in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China.[11]

The archeological treasures found in its sand-buried ruins point to Tocharian, early Hellenistic, Indian, and Buddhist influences. Its treasures and dangers have been vividly described by Aurel Stein, Sven Hedin, Albert von Le Coq, and Paul Pelliot.[6] Mummies, some 4000 years old, have been found in the region. They show the wide range of peoples who have passed through.

Later, the Taklamakan was inhabited by Turkic peoples. Starting with the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese periodically extended their control to the oasis cities of the Taklamakan in order to control the important silk route trade across Central Asia. Periods of Chinese rule were interspersed with rule by Turkic, Mongol and Tibetan peoples. The present population consists largely of Turkic Uyghur people.

  See also


  1. ^ E.M. Pospelov, Geograficheskiye nazvaniya mira (Moscow, 1998), p. 408.
  2. ^ Gunnar Jarring,'The Toponym Takla-makan', Turkic Languages vol 1, 1997, pp 227-40.
  3. ^ Tamm (2011), p. 139.
  4. ^ "Takla Makan Desert at TravelChinaGuide.com". http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/xinjiang/korla/taklamakan.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-24. But see Christian Tyler, Wild West China, John Murray 2003, p.17
  5. ^ "The Age of the Taklimakan Desert." Jimin Sun and Tungsten Lou. Science, Vol. 312, 16 June 2006, p. 1621.
  6. ^ a b c Ban, Paul G. (2001). The Atlas of World Archeology. New York: Check mark Books. pp. 134&n dash; 135. ISBN 0-8160-4051-6. 
  7. ^ "Taklamakan Desert". Encyclopedia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9110530/Takla-Makan-Desert. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  8. ^ "The World's Largest Desert". geology.com. http://geology.com/records/largest-desert.shtml. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  9. ^ "China's biggest desert Taklamakan experiences record snow". Xinhuanet.com. February 1, 2008. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-02/01/content_7544946.htm. 
  10. ^ Spies Along the Silk Road. http://books.google.com/books?id=1_41VGoCYU8C&pg=PA321&dq=Taklamakan+Desert&output=html. Retrieved 2007-08-07. 
  11. ^ The Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith. http://books.google.com/books?id=ArWLD4Qop38C&pg=PA189&lpg=PA189&dq=miran+china. Retrieved 2007-08-25. 



  • Jarring, Gunnar (1997). "The toponym Takla-makan", Turkic Languages, Vol. 1, pp. 227–240.
  • Hopkirk, Peter (1980). Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for the Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 0-87023-435-8.
  • Hopkirk, Peter (1994). The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia. ISBN 1-56836-022-3.
  • Tamm, Eric, Enno (2010). The Horse that Leaps Through Clouds. Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver/ Toronto/Berkeley. ISBN 97815536526944 (cloth); ISBN 978-1-55365-638-8 (ebook).
  • Warner, Thomas T. (2004). Desert Meteorology. Cambridge University Press, 612 pages. ISBN 0-521-81798-6.

  External links

Afghan Mountains semi-desert Afghanistan
Alashan Plateau semi-desert China, Mongolia
Arabian Desert and East Sahero-Arabian xeric shrublands Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
Atlantic coastal desert Mauritania, Western Sahara
Azerbaijan shrub desert and steppe Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran
Badkhiz-Karabil semi-desert Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Baluchistan xeric woodlands Afghanistan, Pakistan
Caspian lowland desert Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan
Central Afghan Mountains xeric woodlands Afghanistan
Central Asian northern desert Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan
Central Asian riparian woodlands Kazakhstan
Central Asian southern desert Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Central Persian desert basins Afghanistan, Iran
Eastern Gobi desert steppe China, Mongolia
Gobi Lakes Valley desert steppe Mongolia
Great Lakes Basin desert steppe Mongolia, Russia
Junggar Basin semi-desert China, Mongolia
Kazakh semi-desert Kazakhstan
Kopet Dag semi-desert Iran, Turkmenistan
Mesopotamian shrub desert Iraq, Jordan, Syria
North Saharan steppe and woodlands Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Western Sahara
Paropamisus xeric woodlands Afghanistan
Persian Gulf desert and semi-desert Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates
Qaidam Basin semi-desert China
Red Sea Nubo-Sindian tropical desert and semi-desert Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
Rigestan-North Pakistan sandy desert Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan
Sahara desert Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sudan
South Iran Nubo-Sindian desert and semi-desert Iran, Iraq, Pakistan
South Saharan steppe and woodlands Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sudan
Taklimakan desert China
Tibesti-Jebel Uweinat montane xeric woodlands Chad, Egypt, Libya, Sudan
West Saharan montane xeric woodlands Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger

Coordinates: 38°53′28″N 82°10′40″E / 38.89111°N 82.17778°E / 38.89111; 82.17778



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