LOP NUR or LOP NOR (from a Mongolian name meaning "Lop Lake" ) is a
former salt lake in China , now largely dried-up, located between the
Taklamakan and Kumtag deserts in the southeastern portion of Xinjiang
Uygur Autonomous Region in the People\'s Republic of China .
Administratively, the lake is in
Lop Nur township (罗布泊镇 pinyin
: Luóbùpō zhèn, also known as Luozhong 罗中, pinyin : Luó
Ruoqiang County , which in its turn is part of the
Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture .
The lake system into which the
Tarim River and
Shule River empty is
the last remnant of the historical post-glacial Tarim Lake, which once
covered more than 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi) in the
Tarim Basin . Lop
Nur is hydrologically endorheic — it is landbound and there is no
outlet. The lake measured 3,100 km2 (1,200 sq mi) in 1928, but has
dried up due to construction of dams which blocked the flow of water
feeding into the lake system, and only small seasonal lakes and
marshes may form. The dried-up
Lop Nur Basin is covered with a salt
crust ranging from 30 cm to 1 m in thickness.
Lop Nur has been used as a nuclear testing site, and since the
discovery of potash at the site in the mid-1990s it is also the
location of a large-scale mining operation.
* 1 History
Lop Nur Nuclear Weapons Test Base
* 2 Transportation
* 3 Archaeological sites around
* 3.1 Loulan
* 3.2 Xiaohe Burial Site
* 3.3 Qäwrighul
* 3.4 Miran
* 4 Image gallery
* 5 See also
* 6 Footnotes
* 7 External links
From around 1800 BC, until the 9th century the lake supported a
thriving Tocharian culture. Archaeologists have discovered the buried
remains of settlements, as well as several of the
Tarim mummies ,
along its ancient shoreline. Former water resources of the Tarim River
Lop Nur nurtured the kingdom of Loulan since the second century
BC, an ancient civilization along the
Silk Road , which skirted the
lake-filled basin. Loulan became a client-state of the Chinese empire
in 55 BC, renamed
Marco Polo in his travels passed through
Lop Desert , and the famous explorers
Ferdinand von Richthofen ,
Nikolai Przhevalsky ,
Sven Hedin and
Aurel Stein visited and studied
the area. It is also likely that Swedish soldier Johan Gustaf Renat
had visited the area when he was helping the Zunghars to produce maps
over the area in the eighteenth century. Map of
Lop Nur by Folke
Bergman, 1935. Kara-Koshun where the terminal lake was found in 1867
is located to the south-west of Lop Nor, and the lake had shifted back
to Lop Nor by the time this map was drawn. Taitema Lake was a smaller
transit lake and located to the west of Kara-Koshun.
The lake was given various names in ancient Chinese texts. In _Shiji
_ it was called Yan Ze (鹽澤, literally Salt Marsh), indicating its
saline nature, and near which was located the ancient
Loulan Kingdom .
Hanshu _ it was called Puchang Hai (蒲昌海, literally Sea of
Abundant Reed) and was given a dimension of 300 to 400 _li _ (roughly
120–160 km) in length and breadth, indicating it was once a lake of
great size. These early texts also mentioned the belief, mistaken as
it turns out, that the lake joins the
Yellow River through an
underground channel as the source of the river.
The lake was referred to as the "Wandering Lake" in the early 20th
century due to the
Tarim River changing its course, causing its
terminal lake to alter its location between the
Lop Nur dried basin,
the Kara-Koshun dried basin and the Taitema Lake basin. This shift of
the terminal lake caused some confusion amongst the early explorers as
to the exact location of Lop Nur. Imperial maps from the Qing Dynasty
Lop Nur to be located in similar position to the present Lop
Nur dried basin, but the Russian geographer Nikolay Przhevalsky
instead found the terminal lake at Kara-Koshun in 1867. Sven Hedin
visited the area in 1900-1901 and suggested that the Tarim river
periodically changed its course to and fro between its southbound and
northbound direction, resulting in a shift in the position of the
terminal lake. The change in the course of the river, which resulted
Lop Nur drying up, was also suggested by Hedin as the reason why
ancient settlements such as Loulan had perished.
In 1921, due to human intervention, the terminal lake shifted its
position back to Lop Nur. The lake measured 2400 km2 in area in
1930-31. In 1934
Sven Hedin went down the new Kuruk Darya ('Dry
River') in a canoe. He found the delta to be a maze of channels and
the new lake so shallow that it was difficult to navigate even in a
canoe. In 1900 he had walked the dry Kuruk Darya in a caravan. In 1952
the terminal lake then shifted to Taitema Lake when the Tarim River
and Konque River were separated through human intervention, and Lop
Nur dried out again by 1964. In 1972, the Great West Sea Reservoir
(Daxihaizi, 大西海子) was built at Tikanlik, water supply to the
lake was cut off, and all the lakes for the most part then dried out,
with only small seasonal lakes forming in local depressions in
Taitema. The loss of water to the lower
Tarim River Valley also led
to the deterioration and loss of poplar forests and tamarix shrubs
that used to be extensively distributed along the lower Tarim River
Valley forming the so-called 'Green Corridor'. In 2000, in an effort
to prevent further deterioration of the ecosystem, water was diverted
Lake Bosten in an attempt to fill the Taitema Lake. The Taitema
Lake however had shifted 30 to 40 kilometres (19 to 25 mi) westwards
during the past 40 years due in part to the spread of the desert.
Another cause of the destabilization of the desert has been the
cutting of poplars and willows for firewood; in response, a
restoration project to reclaim the poplar forests was initiated.
The Kara-Koshun dried basin may be considered part of the greater Lop
On 17 June 1980, Chinese scientist
Peng Jiamu disappeared while
Lop Nur in search of water. His body was never found, and
his disappearance remains a mystery. 3 On June 1996, the Chinese
Yu Chunshun died while trying to walk across Lop Nur.
Coordinates : 40°10′N 90°35′E / 40.167°N 90.583°E /
LOP NUR NUCLEAR WEAPONS TEST BASE
China established the
Lop Nur Nuclear Test Base on 16 October 1959
with Soviet assistance in selection of the site, with its headquarters
at Malan, about 125 km (78 mi) northwest of
Qinggir . The first
Chinese nuclear bomb test , codenamed "596 ", occurred at
Lop Nur in
1964. The PRC detonated its first hydrogen bomb on 17 June 1967. Until
1996, 45 nuclear tests were conducted. These nuclear tests were
conducted by dropping bombs from aircraft and towers, launching
missiles, detonating weapons underground and in the atmosphere. In
2009, Jun Takada, a Japanese scientist known for prominently opposing
the tests as "the Devil's conduct", published the results of his
computer simulation which suggests - based on deaths from Soviet tests
- that 190,000 people could have died in China from nuclear-related
illnesses. Enver Tohti , an exiled pro-Uyghur independence activist,
claimed that cancer rates in the province of
Xinjiang were 30 to 35%
higher than the national average. On 29 July 1996, China conducted
its 45th and final nuclear test at Lop Nor, and issued a formal
moratorium on nuclear testing the following day, although further
subcritical tests were suspected. In 2012, China announced plans to
spend $1 million to clean up the Malan (马兰, _Mǎlán_) nuclear
base in Lop Nor to create a red tourism site. The
Cox Report has made
no bones about transfer of nuclear secrets for making Thermonuclear
weapons on a "lab to lab" basis, in the late 1980s to 1990s, between
United states and China, without providing any evidence, the most
controversial test being carried out on 10 June 1994, for the DF-31
A highway from Hami to
Lop Nur (
Xinjiang Provincial Hwy 235) was
completed in 2006.
Hami–Lop Nur Railway , which runs 374.83 km (232.91 mi) north
to Hami, along the same route, opened to freight operations in
November 2012. The railway is used to transport potassium-rich salt
mined at the lake to the Lanzhou–
Xinjiang Railway .
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AROUND LOP NUR
Given the extreme dryness and resulting thin population, remains of
some buildings survived for a significant period of time. When ancient
graves, some a few thousand years old, were opened the bodies were
often found to be mummified and grave goods well preserved. The
earliest sites are associated with an ancient people of Indo-European
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. It was renamed
Shanshan after Chinese took
control of the kingdom in 1st century BCE. It was abandoned some time
in the seventh century. Its location was discovered by
Sven Hedin in
1899, who excavated some houses and found a wooden
and many Chinese manuscripts from the
Western Jin Dynasty (265–420).
Aurel Stein also excavated at the site in the beginning of the 20th
century, while Chinese archaeologists explored the area in the latter
part of the 20th century. A mummy called the "Beauty of Loulan" was
found at a cemetery site on the bank of Töwän River. Europoid
Mask, from Xiaohe Tombs complex near Lop Nur, China, 2000-1000 BCE
XIAOHE BURIAL SITE
Xiaohe Tomb complex
Xiaohe Tomb complex is located to the west of Lop Nur. This
bronze-age burial site is an oblong sand dune, from which more than
thirty well preserved mummies have been excavated. The entire Xiaohe
Tomb complex contains about 330 tombs, about 160 of which have been
violated by grave robbers. A local hunter guided the Swedish explorer
Folke Bergman to the site in 1934. An excavation
project by the
Xinjiang Cultural Relics and
began in October 2003. A total of 167 tombs have been dug up since the
end of 2002 and excavations have revealed hundreds of smaller tombs
built in layers, as well as other precious artifacts. In 2006, a
valuable archeological finding was uncovered: a boat-shaped coffin
wrapped in ox hide, containing the mummified body of a young woman.
In 1979, some of the earliest of the
Tarim mummies were discovered in
burial sites at Qäwrighul (Gumugou), which is located to the west of
Lop Nur, on the Könchi (Kongque) river. Forty-two graves, most of
which dated from 2100-1500 BC, were found. There were two types of
tomb at the site, belonging to two different time periods. The first
type of burial featured shaft pit graves, some of which had poles at
either end to mark east and west. Bodies were found extended, usually
facing east, and sometimes were wrapped in wool weavings and wearing
felt hats. Artefacts found included basketry, wheat grains, cattle and
sheep/goat horns, bird bone necklaces and bracelets, nephrite beads,
and fragments of copper (or bronze), although no pottery was
The second type of burial, from a later period, also consisted of
shaft pit graves, surrounded by seven concentric circles of poles. Six
male graves were found, in which the bodies were extended on their
backs, and facing towards the east. Few artifacts were found, except
for some traces of copper, or bronze.
Miran is located to the south-west of Lop Nur. Buddhist monasteries
were excavated here, and murals and sculptures showed artistic
influences form India and Central Asia, with some showing influences
from as far as
Lop Nur by satellite.
Satellite picture of the
Lop Desert with the basin of the formerly
sea Lop Nur. In the left Kuruk-tagh, in the right Astin-tagh.
Satellite image of a potassium chloride factory in Lop Nur.
Silk Road transmission of Buddhism
List of nuclear weapons tests of China
* ^ Barber, Elizabeth (2000). _The Mummies of Urümchi_. W. W.
Norton & Company. p. 125. Two groups have laid claim to _nor_, the
second half of _Lop Nor_. _Nor_ is Mongol for "lake" and occurs as
part of many lake names in
Xinjiang and other parts of Central Asia,
while _nur_ is Uyghur for "bright" (as in the white of the salt
flats). Mongol probably wins this one. But _lop_ is opaque in both
languages and in Chinese too, a fact suggesting that the name goes
back to a time before Turks, Mongols, or Chinese had entered the
* ^ _A_ _B_ "Lop Nor Nuclear Weapons Test Base". nti. Retrieved
* ^ "Lop Nur, Xinjiang, China". Earth Observatory. June 19, 2011.
* ^ J.M. Dent (1908), "Chapter 36: Of the Town of Lop Of the Desert
in its Vicinity - And of the strange Noises heard by those who pass
over the latter", _The travels of
Marco Polo the Venetian_, pp.
* ^ "The Wandering Lake". nasa.gov. Retrieved 2007-08-03.
* ^ August Strindberg, "En svensk karta över Lop-nor och
Tarimbäckenet" (in Swedish)
* ^ Zizhi Tongjian Original text:
Translation; Puchang Hai, another name is You Ze, also called Yan ze,
Furi Hai, Chuan Lan, and Lin Hai. It is located to the south-west of
Shiji Original text:
而樓蘭、姑師邑有城郭，臨鹽澤。Translation: The cities
of Loulan and Gushi have walls; they lie near to Yan Ze.
Hanshu Original text:
Translation: Puchang Hai, also named Yan Ze, lies over 300 _li_ from
the Yumen and
Yangguan Pass , and is 300 to 400 _li_ in length and
breadth. Its waters are stagnant, and do not increase or decrease
during the winter or summer. It is generally believed that the water
flows hidden underground, emerges south at Jishi, and becomes the
Chinese River (meaning
Yellow River ).
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Zhao Songqiao and Xia Xuncheng (1984). "Evolution
Lop Desert and the Lop Nor". _The Geographical Journal_. 150
JSTOR 634326 . doi :10.2307/634326 .
* ^ _A_ _B_ Makiko Onishi and Asanobu Kitamoto. "Hedin, the Man Who
Solved the Mystery of the Wandering Lake: Lop Nor and Lou-lan".
Digital Silk Road.
* ^ Sven Hedin, The Wandering lake, 1940. The river was also called
the Kum Darya ('Sand River.) The Gizi map of
Xinjiang calls it the
Konche, which is probably a mistake.
* ^ Liang Chao (2004-04-13). "Quenching thirst in Tarim Basin".
* ^ "Desert Intrudes upon Tarim Lake". china.org.cn. Retrieved
* ^ "
Tarim River Ecological Protection Suggested". china.org.cn.
* ^ "China Creates \'Man-made Oasis\' Along Longest Inland River".
_Xinhua News Agency_. Chinagate.com.cn. September 15, 2007.
* ^ "Found Dead - Yu Chunshun, 48, Intrepid Chinese explorer".
asiaweek.com. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
* ^ Burrows and Fieldhouse, Andrew S. and Richard (1993). _Nuclear
Weapons Databook_. Boulder: Westview Press. pp. p. 380. CS1 maint:
Extra text (link )
* ^ Subhabrata Das (Apr 20, 2009). "China’s nuclear tests
allegedly caused 190k deaths". Digital Journal.
* ^ Zeeya Merali (July 8, 2009). "Did China\'s Nuclear Tests Kill
Thousands and Doom Future Generations?". Scientific American.
Retrieved 27 October 2012.
* ^ Jeffrey Lewis (April 3, 2009). "
Subcritical Testing at Lop
Nor". Arms Control Wonk.
* ^ "China to open ex-atomic site to tourists". Beijing: United
Press International. 2012-10-17. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
* ^ The
Cox Report and the U.S.-China Arms Control Technical
* ^ _A_ _B_ China starts building railway into "sea of death",
GOV.cn, Thursday, 4 March 2010
* ^ "Burial Site from the Bronze Age, Lop Nur, Xinjiang.".
www.china.org.cn. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
* ^ "