The Badain Jaran Desert is a desert in China which spans the provinces of Gansu, Ningxia and Inner Mongolia. It covers an area of 49,000 sq. kilometers (19,000 sq. miles).
This desert is home to the tallest stationary dunes on Earth. Some of the dunes reach a height of 500 meters (1,600 ft.). The dunes are kept in place in the arid, windy region by an underground water source. Analyses of the ground water indicates that it is snowmelt that flows through fractured rock from mountains hundreds of kilometers away.
The desert also features over 100 spring-fed lakes that lie between the dunes, some of which are fresh while others are extremely saline. These lakes give the desert its name which is Mongolian for "mysterious lakes". It is also crossed by one river, the Ruo Shui ("weak water"), which has formed a great alluvial plain in the desert
Humanoid traces (fossil remains, stone implements, etc.) from the Paleolithic ("Old Stone Age", or from about 2.6 million years ago to about 10 thousand years ago, which latter date marks the beginning of the Neolithic ("New Stone Age")) have been unearthed here, as well as the fossil remains of prehistoric members of the ostrich family (Struthionidae) and much, much older fossils belonging to dinosaurs.
The aforementioned Tangut (táng gǔ tè 唐古特) tribes that resided here during China's earliest dynastic period, the Xia (BCE 2000-1500) Dynasty (xià cháo 夏朝), conducted trade with the Bactrians (BCE 2200-1700) of Central Asia (corresponding to the northern part of present-day Afghanistan, the western part of Tajikistan, most of present-day Turkmenistan, and the southern part of present-day Uzbekistan). The present-day camel of the Badain Jaran Desert is a descendant of the Bactrian camel.
In more recent times, the city of Alxa (Alashan in Tangut) and the He Xi Corridor formed part of the northern route of the ancient Silk Road. The Tang (CE 618-907) Dynasty poet, Wang Wei (wáng wéi 王维), wrote couplets on the subject of Alxa, and even the renowned Italian traveler and explorer, Marco Polo, left his own personal "Kilroy Was Here" on Alxa in the form of mention of Alxa's merits in his travel diaries.
Later, Badain Jaran was occupied by the Mongols, and in particular, by nomadic desert tribes such as the Tuerhute (tǔ ěr hù tè 土尔扈特) and Heshuote (hé shuò tè 和硕特), who were excellent horsemen. Foreign and Chinese Archeology teams have unearthed numerous finds of stoneware pottery lying around the perimeter of the desert's many lakes, highlighting the importance of the lake as a site of early human habitation. Some of the later period pottery unearthed here had be
The Badain Jaran Desert has a well-preserved Tibetan-Buddhist temple – Badain Jaran Desert Temple, which was built in 1868. Since the temple lies in the heart of the desert - and, naturally, on the shores of a lake - it has remained untouched by the many wars that have marred or destroyed temples in other parts of the country.
Badain Jaran Desert Temple, which measures some 300 square meters, has a modest library, several Buddhist frescoes, statues and wood carvings, as well as brick carvings and several other ancient artifacts related to the history of the temple. There is also a white pagoda standing to the west of the temple proper.
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