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Western China: mountains and desert plateaus

Much of Western China territory is mountainous, in this part of the country rise up some of the highest mountain ranges of the world such as Himalayas, Tian Shan, Kunlun Shan, Karakoram, Pamir and Altaj, as well as extensive plateaus as Tibet.

The North-West of the country is made up of vast desert and semi-desert areas like Junggar Pendi, enclosed between the mountain ranges Altaj to the north, exceeding 4,000 meters high, and the mountains of Tian Shan to the south, which rise up to 7,439 metres of Jengish Chokusu (Pik Pobedy), which is located along the border with Kyrgyzstan, in the chain of Kokshal-Tau.

To the east of Tian Shan mountains along the border with Mongolia, lies the famous Gobi desert. Further south, beyond the chain of Tian Shan, we find, at Urumchi, the deepest depression of the country, that of Turfan (-154 meters), then the Tarim basin, and one the most arid desert, the Takla Makan (270,000 sq km).

To the south, the Takla Makan desert, is closed by the imposing Kunlun Shan mountains that extend from east to west for more than 3,000 km and at various points exceed 7,000 meters. To the west along the border with Tajikistan and Afghanistan, the Kunlun Shan meet with the Pamir mountains, here in Chinese territory are the peaks of Kongur Tagh (7,649 meters) and Muztagh Ata (7,546 metres).

To the south of the great chain of Kunlun Shan is the immense Tibet Plateau (2,500,000 sq. km), which has an average altitude between 4,500 and 4,900 metres, the plateau is crossed by numerous chains and closed southward from Himalaya, northwards from the Kunlun Shan and the Qilian Shan and to the west from Pamir and Karakoram.

The Tibet Plateau is the source of major rivers of South-East Asia and the Indian peninsula, as the Chang Jiang, Huang He, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Salween and Mekong.

To the west of Tibet rise the peaks of the Karakoram mountain range while the south extends the Himalaya chain, are these two, the highest mountain ranges on the planet. Within the borders of China there are nine of the fourteen mountains of the planet that exceed 8,000 meters, among them, along the border with Nepal, the highest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest (Himalayas, Nepal-China, 8,848 metres).

The other peaks of China exceeding the 8,000 metres are: K2 (the second mountain on the planet, Karakoram, China-Pakistan, 8,611 m), Lhotse (fourth mountain on the planet, Himalayas, Nepal-China, 8,516 meters), Makalu (fifth mountain on the planet, Himalayas, Nepal-China, 8,485 (8,462) meters), Cho Oyu (sixth mountain on the planet, Himalayas, Nepal-China, 8,188 (8,201) metres), Gasherbrum I (K5, eleventh mountain on the planet, Karakoram, China-Pakistan, 8,080 meters), Faichan Kangri (K3 or Broad Peak, the twelfth mountain on the planet, Karakoram, China-Pakistan, 8,047 metres), Gasherbrum II (K4 , the thirteenth mountain on the planet, Karakoram, China-Pakistan, 8,035 meters), and Shishapangma (fourteenth mountain on the planet, the Himalayas, China, 8,013 meters).

Eastern China

This post is also available in: German

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