[photopress:Taklimakan_Desert.jpg,full,alignright]China has completed the construction of a second blacktop highway across the Taklamakan Desert in the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The 424-km highway runs from Aral, a city in central Xinjiang, and ends in the Hotan prefecture in the south of the region, traversing the Taklamakan Desert.
Construction of the road began in June 2005 with an investment of RMB790 million ($105 million).
Around 180 km was built by the People’s Armed Police Force which is not a force that would spring readily to mind as a road construction crew.
The highway, which is expected to open on October 1, will shorten by half the travel time between Aksu prefecture, which administers Aral, and the Hotan area.
Xinjiang’s first highway through the desert opened to traffic in 1995. At 522 kilometers it is the world’s longest desert highway.
The Taklamakan Desert, China’s largest desert, is in the center of the Tarim Basin, south of the Tianshan Mountains. It is 1,000 kilometers from west to east and 400 kilometers from north to south, covering 324,000 square kilometers. It is known as the largest sandy desert in the world.
Some references suggests that Taklamakan means ‘if you go in, you won’t come out’; others state that it means ‘Desert of Death’ or ‘Place of No Return’. ‘Makan’ is a Turkic word meaning ‘place’. One way of translating it from Turkic is ‘unreturnable’ so the first definition is perhaps a poetic rendering.
The key oasis towns are Kashgar, Yarkand, and Khotan in the South-West, Kuqa and Turfan in the North, and Loulan and Dunhuang in the East.
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. (The Russians seriously wanted to control this area and mounted several expeditions.) The present population consists largely of Turkic Uyghur and Kazakh people in the countryside, while the population of the larger cities is predominantly Han Chinese.
For this writer this is the stuff of romance and he would give much to traverse that desert.
Source: China View