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The Sea of Death - Xinjiang Taklimakan Desert

 2013-12-02    chloe    Sights    Xinjiang    3144  

There are more than 10 large deserts in China, but the Taklimakan Desert is the most imposing one as voted by media as Chinese National Geographic magazine. As the temperatures drop largely in the most cities, a trip to the Taklimakan Desert heats up all over China.

When talking about desert, I guess a majority of people are familiar with Sahara, which ranks as the biggest drifting desert in the world. And how much do you know about the Taklimakan Desert? The Taklimakan Desert, located in the center of Tarim Basin of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the northwest China, covers a large area of 377000 square kilometers. It is 400 kilometers wide and 1000 kilometers long, which is recognized as the second largest shifting sand desert. In the local language, Taklimakan means “unreturnable”, in other words, it is close to “you can come in, but you can never come out”. Some natives even call it “the Sea of Death” for the conditions are really harsh in that area.

The Oasis Towns

Since Taklimakan is a constantly shifting desert, many people mistakenly think the weather must be extremely hot throughout the year. However, it is a frigid climate desert and the temperature can be even lower than -20 degree. Distinctive temperature is another main feature of Taklimakan. Sometimes the weather is warm in the noon, but freeze cold at night. Even in a summer night, the temperature here still remains on a low level. Under such harsh conditions, both human beings and wildlife can hardly live in here and the oasis towns in Taklimakan become an important survival places for passerby and visitors. Fresh water is a treasure in the Oasis towns, because it is the life spring of human beings and wildlife. In the past, there were lots of oasis towns here, including Kashgar, Marin, Niya, Yarkand and so forth. As time went by, some oasis towns were ruined by the desert and disappeared forever, leaving mysterious mummies to the modern people.


Though weather is unpleasant in Taklimakan, small amounts of animals still try their best to survive here, such as Asian wild asses, wild Bactrian camels, foxes, wolves, wild boars and gazelles. Only when they are able to tolerate the dry and cold weather, can they live in such a depression. Niter bushes and reeds the two main types of vegetations in Taklimakan, thus plants seem to be quite precious.

Sand Dunes

The Taklimakan Desert gains its reputation partly from golden sand dunes, which have a history of more than thousands of years. Huge wind could be terrible here because some of the sand dunes can soar to 800 - 1500 feet tall and people may sink into the desert. In a dangerous windy day, only camels dare to travel across it. Actually, the local farmers and herders contributed a lot to the desertification and sand dunes, so t is high time for us to protect the environment and avoid desert bury more green land.

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