Taklimakan Desert, a large arid area in Xinjiang province, China. It is some 500 miles (800 km) long and 250 miles (400 km) wide and lies between the Tarim River on the north and two mountain ranges, the Kunlun Shan and the Altun Shan, on the south. The Taklimakan is extremely dry; all the mountain rivers that enter the desert end in it. For the most part, the Taklimakan is a sandy to rocky wasteland. Oases along its edges were important stops on caravan routes in ancient times.