From space (November 1994). North is to the left.
|Type||Endorheic, saline lake|
|Surface area||4,186 km2 (1,616 sq mi) (2004), 4,489 km2 (1,733 sq mi) (2007)|
Qinghai Lake (Chinese: 青海湖), Kokonor (Mongolian : Хөх нуур) or Tsongon Po (Tibetan: མཚོ་སྔོན་པོ།) is the largest lake in the People's Republic of China. Located in Qinghai province on an endorheic basin, Qinghai Lake is classified as a saline and alkaline lake. Qinghai Lake has a surface area of 4,317 square km; an average depth of 21m, and a maximum depth of 25.5m as measured in 2008. Both the current Chinese name "Qinghai" and the older Mongolian name Kokonor translate to "Blue Lake" or "Teal Sea", are used in English. Qinghai Lake is located about 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of the provincial capital of Xining (Tib:Ziling ཟི་ལིང་།) at 3,205 m (10,515 feet) above sea level in a depression of the Tibetan plateau. Twenty-three rivers and streams empty into Qinghai Lake, most of them seasonal. Five permanent streams provide 80% of total influx.
The lake has fluctuated in size, shrinking over much of the 20th century, but has increased since 2004. Despite its salinity, it has an abundance of fish, such as the edible naked carp (Gymnocypris przewalskii, huángyú (湟鱼)).
Qinghai Lake, 2006
|Literal meaning||Blue Sea Lake|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Хөх нуур|
Qinghai Lake is sandwiched between Hainan and Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures in northeastern Qinghai. The lake is located at the crossroads of several bird migration routes across Asia. Many species use Qinghai as an intermediate stop during migration. As such, it is a focal point in global concerns of avian influenza (H5N1), as a major outbreak here could spread the virus across Europe and Asia, further increasing the chances of a pandemic. Minor outbreaks of H5N1 have already been identified at the lake. At the tip of the peninsula on the western side of the lake are the "Bird Islands" (Cormorant Island and Egg Island), which have been bird sanctuaries of the Qinghai Lake Natural Protection Zone since 1997. The lake often remains frozen for three months continuously in winter.
There is an island in the western part of the lake with a temple and a few hermitages called "Mahādeva, the Heart of the Lake" (mTsho snying Ma hā de wa) which historically was home to a Buddhist monastery. No boat was used during summer, only when the lake froze over in winter could monks reach the mainland or pilgrims visit the temple—many of whom used to come from Tibetan areas and Mongolia. A nomad described the size of the island by saying that: "if in the morning a she-goat starts to browse the grass around it clockwise and its kid anti-clockwise, they will meet only in the night, which shows how big the island is." It is also known as the place where Gushri Khan and other Khoshut Mongols migrated to during the 1620s.
The lake is circumambulated by pilgrims mainly Tibetan Buddhist followers, especially every Horse Year of the twelve cycle years turn out to the great pilgrimage to the Tibetans. Przhevalsky estimated it would take about 8 days by horse or 15 walking to circumambulate the lake, but pilgrims report it takes about 18 days on horseback, and one took 23 days walking to complete the circuit.
Since the Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), Qinghai Lake was called the West Sea (Chinese: 西海; pinyin: Xī Hǎi), and substantial numbers of Han Chinese lived in the Xining valley. In the 17th century, Mongolic-speaking Oirat and Khalkha tribals migrated to Qinghai and became known as Qinghai Mongols. In 1724, the Qinghai Mongols led by Lobzang Danjin revolted against China's Qing Dynasty (1644–1912). The Yongzheng Emperor, after putting down the rebellion, stripped away Qinghai's autonomy and imposed direct rule. Although some Tibetans lived around the lake, the Qing maintained an administrative division since the time of Güshi Khan between the Dalai Lama's western realm (a bit smaller than the current Tibet Autonomous Region) and the Tibetan-inhabited areas in the east. Yongzheng also sent Manchu and Han settlers to dilute the Mongols.
During the Republican era (1911-1949), a rare ceremony was conducted to the God of the Lake. By this time, the Han people formed a majority of Qinghai Province's residents, although Hui people ("Chinese Muslims") dominated the government. The Kuomintang Hui General Ma Bufang, the Governor of Qinghai, and other high ranking Qinghai and Chinese government officials attended the Kokonuur Lake Ceremony where the God of the Lake was worshipped, and during the ritual, the Chinese national Anthem was sung, all participants bowed to a Portrait of Kuomintang party founder Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and the God of the Lake was also bowed to, and offerings were given to him by the participants, which included the Muslims. Ma Bufang invited Kazakh Muslims to attend the Ceremony honoring the God.
After the 1949 Chinese revolution, refugees from the 1950s Anti-Rightist Movement settled in the area west of Qinghai Lake. After the Chinese economic reform in the 1980s, increasing numbers of Chinese began to migrate to the lake because of business opportunities. However, the increased human density caused ecological stress, as "fresh grass production in Gangcha County north of the lake had declined from a mean of 2,057 kilograms per hectare to 1,271 in 1987". In 2001, the State Forestry Administration of China launched the "retire cropland, restore grasslands" (退耕，还草) campaign and started confiscating Tibetan and Mongol pastoralists' guns allegedly in order to preserve the endangered Przewalski's gazelle that they had been encroaching upon.
Prior to the 1960s, 108 freshwater rivers emptied into the lake. As of 2003, 85% of the river mouths have dried up, including the lake's largest tributary, the Buha River. In between 1959 and 1982, there had been an annual water level drop of 10 centimeters, which was reversed at a rate of 10 cm/year between 1983 to 1989, but has continued to drop since. The Chinese Academy of Sciences reported in 1998 the lake was again threatened with loss of surface area due to livestock over-grazing, land reclamations and natural causes. Lake surface area has decreased 11.7 percent in the period between 1908 and 2000. As a result of this, or possibly moving sand dune, higher lake floors were exposed, numerous water bodies were separated from the rest of the main lake around since the 20th century. In the 1960s, the 48.9 square kilometres (18.9 sq mi) Gahai Lake (尕海, pinyin: Gǎhǎi) appeared in the northern part of the lake. During the 1980s, Shadao Lake (沙岛, pinyin: Shādǎo) split out in the northeast covers an area of 19.6 km2 (7.6 sq mi), while the northeastern Haiyan Lake (海晏, pinyin: Hǎiyàn) is 112.5 km2 (43.4 sq mi). Another 96.7 km2 (37.3 sq mi) daughter lake split off in 2004. In addition, the lake has now split into half a dozen more small lakes at the border. The water surface has shrunk by 312 km2 (120 sq mi) over the last three decades.
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- [dead link]
-  Archived November 7, 2003 at the Wayback Machine
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