Taklamakan
Overview
 
The Taklamakan Desert also known as Taklimakan and Teklimakan, is a desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 in Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. It is bounded by the Kunlun Mountains
Kunlun Mountains
The Kunlun Mountains are one of the longest mountain chains in Asia, extending more than 3,000 km. In the broadest sense, it forms the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau south of the Tarim Basin and the Gansu Corridor and continues east south of the Wei River to end at the North China Plain.The...

 to the south, and the desert Pamir Mountains
Pamir Mountains
The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range in Central Asia formed by the junction or knot of the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges. They are among the world’s highest mountains and since Victorian times they have been known as the "Roof of the World" a probable...

 and Tian Shan
Tian Shan
The Tian Shan , also spelled Tien Shan, is a large mountain system located in Central Asia. The highest peak in the Tian Shan is Victory Peak , ....

 (ancient Mount Imeon
Mount Imeon
Mount Imeon is an ancient name for the Central Asian complex of mountain ranges comprising the present Hindu Kush, Pamir and Tian Shan, extending from the Zagros Mountains in the southwest to the Altay Mountains in the northeast, and linked to the Kunlun, Karakoram and Himalayas to the southeast...

) to the west and north.

The name is probably an Uyghur borrowing of Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 tark, "to leave alone/out/behind, relinquish, abandon" + makan, "place".
Encyclopedia
The Taklamakan Desert also known as Taklimakan and Teklimakan, is a desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 in Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. It is bounded by the Kunlun Mountains
Kunlun Mountains
The Kunlun Mountains are one of the longest mountain chains in Asia, extending more than 3,000 km. In the broadest sense, it forms the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau south of the Tarim Basin and the Gansu Corridor and continues east south of the Wei River to end at the North China Plain.The...

 to the south, and the desert Pamir Mountains
Pamir Mountains
The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range in Central Asia formed by the junction or knot of the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges. They are among the world’s highest mountains and since Victorian times they have been known as the "Roof of the World" a probable...

 and Tian Shan
Tian Shan
The Tian Shan , also spelled Tien Shan, is a large mountain system located in Central Asia. The highest peak in the Tian Shan is Victory Peak , ....

 (ancient Mount Imeon
Mount Imeon
Mount Imeon is an ancient name for the Central Asian complex of mountain ranges comprising the present Hindu Kush, Pamir and Tian Shan, extending from the Zagros Mountains in the southwest to the Altay Mountains in the northeast, and linked to the Kunlun, Karakoram and Himalayas to the southeast...

) to the west and north.

The name is probably an Uyghur borrowing of Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 tark, "to leave alone/out/behind, relinquish, abandon" + makan, "place". Another plausible explanation is that it is derived from Turki
Turki
The Turki language is a Türkic literary language active from the 13th to the 19th centuries, used by different Türkic peoples...

 taqlar makan, which means "the place of ruins". 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".

The Taklamakan Desert Ecoregion is a Chinese ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

 of the Deserts and xeric shrublands
Deserts and xeric shrublands
Deserts and xeric shrublands is a biome characterized by, relating to, or requiring only a small amount of moisture.-Definition and occurrence:...

 Biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

.

Size

It has an area of 337,000 sq. km. (130,116 sq. mi.), and includes the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
The Tarim Basin is a large endorheic basin occupying an area of about . It is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China's far west. Its northern boundary is the Tian Shan mountain range and its southern is the Kunlun Mountains on the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The...

, which is 1000 kilometres (621.4 mi) long and 400 kilometres (248.5 mi) wide. It is crossed at its northern and at its southern edge by two branches of the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

 as travelers sought to avoid the arid wasteland.
It is the world's second largest shifting sand desert with about 85% made up of shifting sand dunes ranking 18th in size in a ranking of the world's largest non-polar deserts.

In recent years, the People's Republic of China has constructed a cross-desert highway
Tarim Desert Highway
350px|thumb|right|[[PetroChina]] gas station in the middle of the desertThe Tarim Desert Highway , also known as the Cross-Desert Highway , crosses the Taklamakan desert from north to south. The highway links the cities of Luntai and Minfeng on the northern and southern edges of the Tarim basin...

 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
Desertification
Desertification is the degradation of land in drylands. Caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and human activities, desertification is one of the most significant global environmental problems.-Definitions:...

.

Climate

Taklamakan is a paradigmatic cold desert climate
Desert climate
A desert climate , also known as an arid climate, is a climate that does not meet the criteria to be classified as a polar climate, and in which precipitation is too low to sustain any vegetation at all, or at most a very scanty scrub.An area that features this climate usually experiences less than...

. Given its relative proximity with the cold to frigid air mass
Air mass
In meteorology, an air mass is a volume of air defined by its temperature and water vapor content. Air masses cover many hundreds or thousands of square miles, and adopt the characteristics of the surface below them. They are classified according to latitude and their continental or maritime...

es in Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

, extreme lows are recorded in wintertime, sometimes well below -20 C. During the 2008 Chinese winter storms
2008 Chinese winter storms
The 2008 Chinese winter storms(2008年中国雪灾、2008年中国南方雪灾)are a series of winter storm events that affected large portions of southern and central China starting on 25 January 2008 until 6 February 2008. The systems affected most of the area with heavy snows, ice and cold temperatures causing extensive...

 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 in some observatories.

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.

Oases

There is very little water in the desert and it is hazardous to cross. Merchant caravans on the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

 would stop for relief at the thriving oasis
Oasis
In geography, an oasis or cienega is an isolated area of vegetation in a desert, typically surrounding a spring or similar water source...

 towns.

The key oasis towns, watered by rainfall from the mountains, were Kashgar
Kashgar
Kashgar or Kashi is an oasis city with approximately 350,000 residents in the western part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. Kashgar is the administrative centre of Kashgar Prefecture which has an area of 162,000 km² and a population of approximately...

, Marin, Niya
Niya (Tarim Basin)
The Ruins of Niya is an archaeological site located about north of modern Minfeng Town on the southern edge of the Tarim Basin in modern-day Xinjiang, China. Numerous ancient archaeological artifacts have been uncovered at the site....

, Yarkand, and Khotan (Hetian) to the south, Kuqa
Kuqa
Kuqa may refer to:*Kuqa County, Xinjiang, China*Kuqa City, seat of Kuqa County...

 and Turpan in the north, and Loulan
Loulan
Loulan or Kroran was an ancient kingdom based around an important oasis city already known in the 2nd century BCE on the north-eastern edge of the Lop Desert. Loulan, known to Russian archaeologists as Krorayina, was an ancient kingdom along the Silk Road. In 108 BCE, the Han Dynasty forces...

 and Dunhuang
Dunhuang
Dunhuang is a city in northwestern Gansu province, Western China. It was a major stop on the ancient Silk Road. It was also known at times as Shāzhōu , or 'City of Sands', a name still used today...

 in the east. Now many, such as Marin and Gaochang
Gaochang
Gaochang is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road...

, are ruined cities in sparsely inhabited areas in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

 of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

.

The archeological treasures found in its sand-buried ruins point to Tocharian
Tocharians
The Tocharians were the Tocharian-speaking inhabitants of the Tarim Basin, making them the easternmost speakers of Indo-European languages in antiquity. They were known as, or at least closely related to, the Yuezhi of Chinese sources...

, early Hellenistic, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n, and Buddhist influences. Its treasures and dangers have been vividly described by Aurel Stein, Sven Hedin
Sven Hedin
Sven Anders Hedin KNO1kl RVO was a Swedish geographer, topographer, explorer, photographer, and travel writer, as well as an illustrator of his own works...

, Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq was a German archaeologist and explorer of Central Asia. He was heir to a sizable fortune derived from breweries and wineries scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe, thus allowing him the luxury of travel and study at the - no longer existing - Ethnology Museum in Berlin...

, and Paul Pelliot
Paul Pelliot
Paul Pelliot was a French sinologist and explorer of Central Asia. Initially intending to enter the foreign service, Pelliot took up the study of Chinese and became a pupil of Sylvain Lévi and Édouard Chavannes....

.
Mummies
Tarim mummies
The Tarim mummies are a series of mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from 1900 BC to 200 AD. Some of the mummies are frequently associated with the presence of the Indo-European Tocharian languages in the Tarim Basin, although the evidence is not...

, some 4000 years old, have been found in the region. They show the wide range of peoples who have passed through. Some of the mummies appear European.
Later, the Taklamakan was inhabited by Turkic peoples
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

. Starting with the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

, the Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 periodically extended their control to the oasis cities of the Taklamakan in order to control the important silk route
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

 trade across Central Asia. Periods of Chinese rule were interspersed with rule by Turkic, Mongol and Tibetan
Tibetan people
The Tibetan people are an ethnic group that is native to Tibet, which is mostly in the People's Republic of China. They number 5.4 million and are the 10th largest ethnic group in the country. Significant Tibetan minorities also live in India, Nepal, and Bhutan...

 peoples. The present population consists largely of Turkic Uyghur people
Uyghur people
The Uyghur are a Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia. Today, Uyghurs live primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China...

.

See also

  • Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves
    Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves
    The Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves are complex of Buddhist cave grottos dating from the 5th to the 9th centuries between the cities of Turpan and Shanshan at the north-east of the Taklamakan Desert near the ancient ruins of Gaochang in the Mutou Valley, a gorge in the Flaming Mountains, China...

  • Cities along the Silk Road
    Cities along the Silk Road
    - Along the continental Silk Road :From Istanbul, Turkey to Yazd, Iran:* Constantinople , Turkey* Bursa, Turkey* Beypazarı, Turkey* Mudurnu, Turkey* Taraklı, Turkey* Konya, Turkey* Adana, Turkey* Antioch, Turkey* Aleppo, Syria...

  • Emin Minaret
    Emin Minaret
    The Emin Minaret or Imin Ta stands by the Uyghur Mosque located in Turfan, Xinjiang, China. At 44 meters it is the tallest minaret in China...

  • Kizil Caves
    Kizil Caves
    The Kizil Caves are a set of 236 Buddhist rock-cut caves located near Kizil Township in Baicheng County, Xinjiang, China. The site is located on the northern bank of the Muzat River 75 kilometres northwest of Kucha...

  • List of deserts by area
  • Mount Imeon
    Mount Imeon
    Mount Imeon is an ancient name for the Central Asian complex of mountain ranges comprising the present Hindu Kush, Pamir and Tian Shan, extending from the Zagros Mountains in the southwest to the Altay Mountains in the northeast, and linked to the Kunlun, Karakoram and Himalayas to the southeast...

  • Tarim Basin
    Tarim Basin
    The Tarim Basin is a large endorheic basin occupying an area of about . It is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China's far west. Its northern boundary is the Tian Shan mountain range and its southern is the Kunlun Mountains on the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The...

  • Tarim mummies
    Tarim mummies
    The Tarim mummies are a series of mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from 1900 BC to 200 AD. Some of the mummies are frequently associated with the presence of the Indo-European Tocharian languages in the Tarim Basin, although the evidence is not...

  • Yuezhi
    Yuezhi
    The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....


External links

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