Tarim Tapestry by M.D. Coverley

The Tarim Basin

The Tarim Basin is a large basin in northwest China occupying an area of about 350,000 sq miles. Located in China's Xinjiang region, its northern boundary is the Tian Shan mountain range and its southern boundary is the Kunlun Mountains on the edge of the Tibet Plateau. The Takla Makan Desert dominates much of the basin.



The Takla Makan Desert

The Takla Makan Desert, also known as Taklamakan, is a desert in in the southwest portion of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China. It is bounded by the Kunlun Mountains to the south, the desert Pamir Mountains and Tian Shan to the west and north, and the Gobi Desert to the east.

Tocharian Language

Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family, formerly spoken in oases on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin. Two branches of Tocharian are known from documents dating from the 6th to 8th centuries AD:

  • Tocharian A Agnean or East Tocharian 
  • Tocharian B Kuchean or West Tocharian

Prakrit documents from 3rd century Kroran on the southeast edge of the Tarim Basin contain loanwords and names that appear to come from another variety of Tocharian, dubbed Tocharian C. All of these languages became extinct after Uyghur tribes expanded into the area from 840 AD on.

The Silk Road

The Silk Road is a modern term referring to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa. Extending 4,000 miles, the Silk Road gets its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade along it, which began during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). The central Asian sections of the trade routes were expanded around 114 BC by the Han dynasty, largely through the missions and explorations of Zhang Qian, but earlier trade routes across the continents already existed.

Map of the Silk Road -



Drawn from the work of Elizabeth Wayland Barber

J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair, The Tarim Mummies

Marco Polo, The Travels

Music:  Altan Urag Folk Rock Band of Mongolia

Return to Tarim Tapestry by M.D. Coverley