Desert /ˌtæk.lə.məˈkæn/ (Chinese:
塔克拉玛干沙漠; pinyin: Tǎkèlāmǎgān Shāmò, Xiao'erjing:
تَاكْلامَاقًا شَاموْ; Uyghur: تەكلىماكان
قۇملۇقى; Dungan: Такәламаган Шамә), also
spelled "Taklimakan" and "Teklimakan", is a desert in southwest
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, northwest China. It is bounded by
Kunlun Mountains to the south, the
Pamir Mountains and Tian Shan
(ancient Mount Imeon) to the west and north, and the Gobi
The name may be an Uyghur borrowing of the Persian tark, "to leave
alone/out/behind, relinquish, abandon" + makan, "place". Some
sources claimed it means "Place of No Return", more commonly
interpreted as "once you get in, you'll never get out" or
similar. Another plausible explanation suggests it is derived
Turki taqlar makan, describing "the place of ruins".
4 Scientific exploration
5 In popular culture
6 See also
9 External links
Desert and Tarim Basin
Settlements, 3rd century CE.
Taklamakan by NASA
Desert has an area of 337,000 km2
(130,000 sq mi), making it slightly smaller than Germany,
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
travellers 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 16th in size in a ranking of the world's
Some geographers and ecologists prefer to regard the Taklamakan Desert
as separate and independent from the Gobi
Desert region to its
The People's Republic of
China has constructed two cross-desert
highways. The Tarim
Desert Highway links the cities of
Hotan (on the
southern edge) and
Luntai (on the northern edge), and the
Ruoqiang road crosses the desert to the east. In recent years, the
desert has expanded in some areas, its sands enveloping farms and
villages as a result of desertification.
Golmud-Korla Railway (presently, under construction; expected
completion time, 2019) will cross the Taklamakan as well.
Desert life near Yarkand
Sand Dunes captured by NASA's Landsat-7
Because it lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, Taklamakan is a
paradigmatic cold desert climate. Given its relative proximity with
the cold to frigid air masses in Siberia, extreme temperatures are
recorded in wintertime, sometimes well below −20 °C
(−4 °F), while in summer they can rise up to 40 °C
(104 °F). During the
2008 Chinese winter storms
2008 Chinese winter storms episode, the
Taklamakan was reported to be covered, for the first time in its
history, entirely 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.
The Molcha (Moleqie) River forms a vast alluvial fan at the southern
border of the Taklamakan Desert, as it leaves the
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
Desert has very little water, therefore it is hazardous
to cross. Merchant caravans on the
Silk Road would stop for relief at
the thriving oasis towns. It was in close proximity to many of the
ancient civilizations — to the Northwest is the
Amu Darya basin, to
the southwest the
Afghanistan mountain passes lead to
Iran and India,
to the east is China, and even to the north ancient towns such as
Almaty can be found.
The key oasis towns, watered by rainfall from the mountains, were
Kashgar, Marin, Niya, Yarkand, and Khotan (Hetian) to the south, Kuqa
Turpan in the north, and
Dunhuang in the east. Now,
many, such as Miran and Gaochang, are ruined cities in sparsely
inhabited areas in the
Xinjiang Autonomous Region of the People's
Republic of China.
The archaeological 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.
Later, the Taklamakan was inhabited by Turkic peoples. Starting with
the Han Dynasty, the Chinese sporadically extended their control to
the oasis cities of the Taklamakan
Desert 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 and ethnic Han people.
This desert was explored by several scientists such as Xuanzang, a
monk in the
7th century and by the archaeologist
Aurel Stein in the
Atmospheric studies have shown that dust originating from the
Taklamakan is blown over the Pacific, where it contributes to cloud
formation over the Western United States. Studies have shown that a
specific class of mineral found in the dust, known as K-feldspar,
triggers ice formation particularly well.
K-feldspar is particularly
susceptible to corrosion by acidic atmospheric pollution such as
nitrates and phosphates. Exposure to this pollution reduces the
ability of the dust to trigger water droplet formation. Further, the
traveling dust redistributes minerals from the Taklamakan to the
western U.S.A. via rainfall.
In popular culture
The desert is the main setting for Chinese film series Painted Skin
and Painted Skin: The Resurrection. The Chinese TV series Candle in
the Tomb is mostly spent in this desert as they are searching for the
ancient city of Jinjue (see Niya (Tarim Basin).)
Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves
Cities along the Silk Road
List of deserts by area
Turpan water system
^ Pospelov, E. M. (1998). Geograficheskiye nazvaniya mira. Moscow.
^ Gunnar Jarring,'The
Toponym Takla-makan', Turkic Languages vol 1,
1997, pp 227-40.
^ Hobbs, Joseph J. (14 December 2007).
World Regional Geography (6th
ed.). Wadsworth Publishing Co Inc. p. 368.
^ Baumer, Christoph. Traces in the Desert: Journeys of Discovery
Across Central Asia. B. Tauris & Company. p. 141.
Hopkirk, Peter (1 November 2001). Foreign Devils on the Silk Road:
The Search for the Lost Treasures of Central Asia. Oxford University
Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0192802118.
^ Tamm (2011), p. 139.
^ "Takla Makan
Desert at TravelChinaGuide.com". Retrieved
2008-11-24. But see Christian Tyler, Wild West China, John Murray
^ Sun, Jimin; Lou, Tungsten (2006). "The Age of the Taklimakan
Desert". Science. 312 (5780): 1621. doi:10.1126/science.1124616.
^ a b Ban, Paul G. The Atlas of
World Archeology. New York: Check mark
Books. pp. 134&n dash; 135. ISBN 0-8160-4051-6.
^ "Taklamakan Desert". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved
^ "The World's Largest Desert". geology.com. Retrieved
^ "China's biggest desert Taklamakan experiences record snow".
Xinhuanet.com. February 1, 2008.
Hopkirk, Peter (2001). Spies Along the Silk Road.
ISBN 9780192802323. Retrieved 2007-08-07.
^ Whitfield, Susan; Library, British (2004). The Silk Road: Trade,
Travel, War and Faith. ISBN 9781932476132. Retrieved
^ "The Silk Road". Archived from the original on 2016-03-15. Retrieved
^ "A Host of Mummies, a Forest of Secrets". Retrieved
Xinjiang territory profile, BBC News. May 7, 2011.
^ Fox, Douglas (2014-12-22). "The Dust Detectives". High Country News.
Vol. 46 no. 22. Retrieved 2017-09-02.
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.
Vancouver/Toronto/Berkeley: Douglas & McIntyre.
ISBN 9781553652694 (cloth); ISBN 978-1-55365-638-8 (ebook).
Warner, Thomas T. (2004).
Desert Meteorology. Cambridge University
Press, 612 pages. ISBN 0-521-81798-6.
Treasure seekers : China's frozen desert, National Geographic
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Taklamakan.
Photos of area in China
Satellite Images from China
Explorer crosses Taklamakan desert on foot
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North American Arctic
Coordinates: 38°54′N 82°12′E / 38.9°N 82.2°E / 38.9;