The Taklamakan Desert, also known as Taklimakan and Teklimakan, is a desert in the southwest portion of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China. It is bounded by the Kunlun Mountains to the south, the desert Pamir Mountains and Tian Shan (ancient Mount Imeon) to the west and north, and the Gobi Desert to the east.
The name is probably an Uyghur borrowing of Arabic tark, "to leave alone/out/behind, relinquish, abandon" + makan, "place". Another plausible explanation is that it is derived from Turki taqlar makan, which means "the place of ruins". Popular accounts claim that Takla Makan means "go in and you will never come out". It may also mean "The point of no return" or "The Desert of Death".
The Taklamakan Desert Ecoregion is a Chinese ecoregion of the Deserts and xeric shrublands Biome.
The Taklamakan Desert has an area of 337,000 km2 (130,116 sq. mi.), 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 travelers 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 18th in size in a ranking of the world's largest non-polar deserts.
Some geographers and ecologists prefer to regard the Taklamakan Desert as separate and independent from the Gobi Desert region to its east.
In recent years, the People's Republic of China has constructed a cross-desert highway that links the cities of Hotan (on the southern edge) and Luntai (on the northern edge). In recent years, the desert has expanded in some areas, its sands enveloping farms and villages as a result of desertification.
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 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.
The Molcha (Moleqie) River
forms a vast alluvial fan
at the southern border of the Taklamakan Desert, as it leaves the Altyn-Tagh
mountains 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 meltwater. 
There is very little water in 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, Marin, Niya, Yarkand, and Khotan (Hetian) to the south, Kuqa and Turpan in the north, and Loulan and Dunhuang in the east. Now many, such as Marin and Gaochang, are ruined cities in sparsely inhabited areas in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China.
The 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.
Later, the Taklamakan was inhabited by Turkic peoples. Starting with the Tang Dynasty, 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.
- ^ E.M. Pospelov, Geograficheskiye nazvaniya mira (Moscow, 1998), p. 408.
- ^ Gunnar Jarring,'The Toponym Takla-makan', Turkic Languages vol 1, 1997, pp 227-40.
- ^ Tamm (2011), p. 139.
- ^ "Takla Makan Desert at TravelChinaGuide.com". Retrieved 2008-11-24.But see Christian Tyler, Wild West China, John Murray 2003, p.17
- ^ "The Age of the Taklimakan Desert." Jimin Sun and Tungsten Lou. Science, Vol. 312, 16 June 2006, p. 1621.
- ^ a b c 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". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
- ^ "The World's Largest Desert". geology.com. Retrieved 2007-08-22.
- ^ "China's biggest desert Taklamakan experiences record snow". Xinhuanet.com. February 1, 2008.
- ^ Spies Along the Silk Road. Retrieved 2007-08-07.
- ^ The Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith. Retrieved 2007-08-25.
- 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. Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver/ Toronto/Berkeley. ISBN 97815536526944 (cloth); ISBN 978-1-55365-638-8 (ebook).
- Warner, Thomas T. (2004). Desert Meteorology. Cambridge University Press, 612 pages. ISBN 0-521-81798-6.
|Afghan Mountains semi-desert
|Alashan Plateau semi-desert
|Arabian Desert and East Sahero-Arabian xeric shrublands
||Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
|Atlantic coastal desert
||Mauritania, Western Sahara
|Azerbaijan shrub desert and steppe
||Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran
||Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
|Baluchistan xeric woodlands
|Caspian lowland desert
||Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan
|Central Afghan Mountains xeric woodlands
|Central Asian northern desert
|Central Asian riparian woodlands
|Central Asian southern desert
||Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
|Central Persian desert basins
|Eastern Gobi desert steppe
|Gobi Lakes Valley desert steppe
|Great Lakes Basin desert steppe
|Junggar Basin semi-desert
|Kopet Dag semi-desert
|Mesopotamian shrub desert
||Iraq, Jordan, Syria
|North Saharan steppe and woodlands
||Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Western Sahara
|Paropamisus xeric woodlands
|Persian Gulf desert and semi-desert
||Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates
|Qaidam Basin semi-desert
|Red Sea Nubo-Sindian tropical desert and semi-desert
||Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
|Rigestan-North Pakistan sandy desert
||Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan
||Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sudan
|South Iran Nubo-Sindian desert and semi-desert
||Iran, Iraq, Pakistan
|South Saharan steppe and woodlands
||Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sudan
|Tibesti-Jebel Uweinat montane xeric woodlands
||Chad, Egypt, Libya, Sudan
|West Saharan montane xeric woodlands
||Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger
Coordinates: 38°54′N 82°12′E / 38.9°N 82.2°E