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The Tarim Basin

The western Kunlun Mountains, near Mazar, southwestern Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, China.

North of the Plateau of Tibet and at the much lower elevation of about 3,000 feet (900 metres) lies the Tarim Basin. It is hemmed in by great mountain ranges: the Tien Shan (Tian Shan; “Celestial Mountains”) on the north, the Pamirs on the west, and the Kunlun Mountains on the south. Glacier-fed streams descend from these heights only to lose themselves in the loose sands and gravels of the Takla Makan Desert, which occupies the centre of the basin. The Takla Makan is one of the most barren of the world's deserts; only a few of the largest rivers—such as the Tarim and Hotan (Khotan)—cross the desert, but even their flow is not constant, and they have water throughout their entire courses only during the flood period. The area of the basin is about 215,000 square miles (557,000 square km), and its elevations range from 2,500 to 4,600 feet (750 to 1,400 metres) above sea level. Its surface slants to the southeast, where Lop Nur (a salt-encrusted lake bed) is situated.

Chinese (Pinyin)  Luobupo  or  (Wade-Giles romanization)  Lo-pu P'o,  also called  Lop Nor  former saline lake in northwestern China that is now a salt-encrusted lake bed. It lies within the Tarim Basin of the eastern Takla Makan Desert, in the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, and is one of the most barren areas of China.

The former lake, occupying roughly 770 square miles (2,000 square km) in the 1950s, ceased to exist by about 1970 after irrigation works and reservoirs were…