Taklamakan Desert Location History Facts China

Taklamakan Desert Location History Facts China

Breeze-blown golden sand envelops the Taklamakan Desert in mainland China all throughout the year. Sand dunes ascend as high as 950ft (286m), and currents reach storm force, they blow up sand walls and are four times as high. The word ‘Taklamakan’ is taken from the Turkic for ‘you can enter but you can’t get out.

To wanderers on the ancient Silk Road from the Levant (East Mediterranean) to China (to and fro), the oases of Kashi (Kashgar) and Turpan (Turfan) must have been an experience indeed. Yet Turpan, on the western frontier of the Taklamakan Desert, appears like an improbable spot for an oasis. Nestled within a terrific saucer of the parched mountain – the Turpan Depression, which, at 500ft (153m) below sea level, is one of the lowest and most burning places in the world. It rarely rains, and temperatures remain 42°C (107℉) for months on end.


Yet grapes and melons grown here have revived silk route travellers for centuries, Turpan’s water reserve comes from the Sacred Mountains (Tien Shan) to the south and is carried to the village by a creative system of underground channels and wells, known as Karez, that was built by the ancient Persian.

Until Sea courses took over in the 16th century, goods were taken by camel caravans between China and the Mediterranean along the 3900-mile (6200km) Silk Route.


Dirt-brick ruins 9 miles (15km) east of Turpan are all that stays of ‘Jiaohe’, founded in 180 BC. It was a part of a kingdom with Persian and Indian elements and became a key town on the course, as did Gaochang, whose ruins lie west of Turpan.

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