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Home Travel in Xinjiang The Taklamakan Desert
The Taklamakan Desert
Travel in Xinjiang

The Taklamakan Desert
The Taklamakan Desert
(tǎ kè lā mǎ gàn shā mò 塔克拉玛干沙漠), lying in the center of the Tarim Basin (tǎ lǐ mù pén dì 塔里木盆地) and covering some 337,600 sq meters, is the biggest desert in China and the second largest shifting sand desert in the world. Between the Keriya River (kè lǐ yǎ hé 克里雅河) and the Hotan River (hé tián hé 和田河) in the heart of the desert, the vast sea of sand stretches to the horizon. These rivers form natural “green corridors” in the heart of the desert. It is the magnificent sight.

The Desert at the SunsetThe Taklamakan Desert, also known as Taklimakan, is a desert in Central Asia, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. It is bounded by the Kunlun Mountains (kūn lún shān mò 昆仑山脉) to the south, and the Pamir Mountains (pà mǐ ěr gāo yuán 帕米尔高原) and Tian Shan (tiān shān 天山)(ancient Mount Imeon) to the west and north.

Taklamakan is one of the largest sandy deserts in the world, ranking 15th in size in a ranking of the world's largest non-polar deserts. It covers an area of 270,000 km2 (100,000 sq mi) of the Tarim Basin, 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. In recent years, the People's Republic of China has constructed a cross-desert highway that links the cities of Hotan (hé tián 和田)(on the southern edge) and Luntai (lún tái 轮台)(on the northern edge). There is no water on the desert, and it is hazardous to cross. Merchant caravans on the Silk Road would stop for relief at the thriving oasis towns.

The key oasis towns, watered by rainfall from the mountains, were Kashgar (kā shí 喀什), Yarkand (shā chē 莎车), and Khotan (hé tián 和田) to the south, Kuqa (kù chē 库车) and Turpan (tǔ lǔ fān 吐鲁番) in the north, and Loulan (lóu lán 楼兰) and Dunhuang (dūn huáng 敦煌) in the east. Now many, such as Gaochang (gāo chāng 高昌), are ruined cities in sparsely inhabited areas in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China.

The Desert in WinterThe 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. Mummies, 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. Starting with the Tang Dynasty (táng cháo 唐朝), 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.

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. 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.

"Sea of Death"
The Taklamakan DesertFrom just about every standpoint----geography, ecology, psychology and symbolism, the Taklamakan Desert is a fearsome, nightmarish place. It has been called the “Sea of Death.” Sparsity and desolation are its only themes, but the most dangerous thing is the lack of water. For a weary and exhausted traveler, even more awful is the seeming boundlessness of this never-ending desert. Once a sand storm forms, roaring and howling, it can even uproot large trees. This is the “fury of GOD……” Frightful white bones in the desert are all that is left of persons, horses and camels. But none of these could stop people trying to explore this desert. The real attraction might be something else, not dead civilization, gold or treasure, but the scared magic of the desert itself. Sven Hedin translated it into “if you go in, you won’t come out.” However, in Uygur, the name actually means “Old Home”.

The Taklamakan DesertIt is the world’s largest underground treasury of cultural relics. The desert destroyed many towns and villages, swallowing lives, legends and details, but left ruins, remote echoes, fragmentary memories and unlimited imaginings. Loulan, Xiaohe, Milan and Dandanwulike (dān dān wū lǐ kè 丹丹乌里克) etc, these famous ancient cities recorded the prosperity of the Silk Road; after years, they are still like sparks in the wilderness which can light up flames in people’s minds. All these excavated discoveries show that this was the only place on earth where the four great ancient civilizations mixed together.

Opening Hours:
all day
Admission Fee: 50 CNY