A desert is a landscape or region that receives almost no precipitation. Deserts are defined as areas with an average annual precipitation of less than 250mm per year or as areas where more water is lost by evapotranspiration than falls as precipitation. — wikipedia
China is the third largest country in territory in the world after Russia and Canada. However, few people think of China as a desert nation, yet it is among the world’s largest.
More than 27%, or 2.5 million square kilometers, of the country comprises useless sand (just 7% of Chinese land feeds about a quarter of the world’s population). A Ministry of Science and Technology task force says desertification costs China about $2-3 billion annually, while 800 km of railway and thousands of kilometers of roads are blocked by sedimentation.
Ironically, here, I am not going to talk about environment conservation. I will show you five most “beautiful” deserts in China. I wish we didn’t have this kind of “beauty” in China. Or, at least, let the beauty stay contained where they are. We don’t need any more of them.
You can view all these 5 deserts in Google Earth here. Enjoy!
1. Badain Jaran Desert 巴丹吉林沙漠腹地 – Curves drawn by the God
Badain Jaran desert is the third largest (erg) desert in China (4th in the world) as well as the largest “echoing sand” region in the world. This desert is home to the tallest stationary dunes on Earth. The highest one – Bitulu Dune – reaches a height of 500 meters with an altitude of 1617 meters. It is known as the “Qomolangma (Mt. Everest) of Dunes”.
One unique thing about Badain Jaran desert is its hundreds (113+) of desert lakes and springs, some of which are fresh while others are extremely saline. Analyses of the ground water indicates that it is snowmelt that flows through fractured rock from mountains hundreds of kilometers away.
2. Taklamakan Desert 塔克拉玛干沙漠腹地 – Nudist camp of the Earth
Taklamakan is the largest desert (erg) in China (2nd in the world). The name is probably a Uyghur borrowing of Arabic tark, “to leave alone/out/behind, relinquish, abandon” + makan, “place”. Popular accounts wrongly claim that Takla Makan means “go in and you will never come out”.
Taklamakan is a major part of the “Silk Road”. Many ruins are discovered in this region, showing its prosperity in ancient times. Taklamakan is also home to the largest Huyang Forest in the world. Here you can find how Huyang (the spirit of desert) show the strength of life.
3. Dzoosotoyn Elisen (GurbanTunggut) Desert 古尔班通古特沙漠腹地 – The blood linkage of Gobi desert
It is China’s (and Xinjiang’s) second largest desert, after Taklamakan Desert. It is in this desert that the remotest point of land from any sea is located. The precise point is at 46°16.8′N 86°40.2′E. This position is over 2,600 kilometers (1,600 mi) from the nearest coastline.
4. Crescent Lake & Singing Sands Hill 月牙泉 鸣沙山 – A millennium watch
Crescent Lake was one of “Eight Attractions of Dunhuang” since Han Dynasty. Although surrounded by desert, it never dried out for thousands of years.
Till 1960s, Crescent Lake had been constantly “very deep” as recorded. In Qing dynasty, “big boat” was sailing in this lake. In the recent 40 years, the depth of lake continually declined. In the early 1990s, the area of the lake had shrunken to only 1.37-acre (5,500 m2) with average depth of 0.9 meter (maximum 1.3 meter). The local government finished an emergency plan to save the lake from drying out in 2008. Now the water level is slowly rising back up.
5. Shapotou 沙坡头 – drag the pace of moving quicksand
Shapotou Tourism Zone is located in Zhongwei City, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, southeastern edge of the Tengger Desert, north shore of the Yellow River. It combines the desert, the Yellow River, mountains, and oases. It is not only a magnificent northwestern scenery, but also a beautiful Jiangnan (South China) scenery.
Shapotou is famous for its successful sand control. Baotou-Lanzhou railway runs across the desert six times, of which the largest slope, the most severe sandstorm is located at Shapotou. In order to avoid the tracks were buried under sand, from the 50s onwards, sand-fixing projects were built on both sides of the railway. And it succeeded. The results of this sand control has aroused widespread concern around the world, many foreign experts are attracted to visit.
[Scenic Splendor of China Series]
This is one post of the Scenic Splendor of China Series. In 2005.10, Chinese National Geography (CNG) selected 114 “most beautiful places” covering 17 different types of scenic patterns. The complete list is here. In Chinese. These scenic places will be covered individually in future.