|Literal meaning||Southern Xinjiang|
The Tarim Basin is a large endorheic basin in northwest China occupying an area of about 906,500 km2 (350,000 sq mi). Located in China's Xinjiang region, it is sometimes used metonymously for the southern half of the province, or Nanjiang (Turkish: tarım havzası, Chinese: 南疆; pinyin: Nánjiāng; literally "Southern Xinjiang"). Its northern boundary is the Tian Shan mountain range and its southern boundary is the Kunlun Mountains on the edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The Taklamakan Desert dominates much of the basin.
The Tarim Basin is the result of an amalgamation between an ancient microcontinent and the growing Eurasian continent during the Carboniferous to Permian periods. At present, deformation around the margins of the basin is resulting in the microcontinental crust being pushed under Tian Shan to the north, and Kunlun Shan to the south.
A thick succession of Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic rocks occupy the central parts of the basin, locally exceeding thicknesses of 15 km (9 mi). The source rocks of oil and gas tend to be Permian mudstones. Below this level is a complex Precambrian basement believed to be made up of the remnants of the original Tarim microplate, which accrued to the growing Eurasian continent in Carboniferous time. The snow on K2, the second highest mountain in the world, flows into glaciers which move down the valleys to melt. The melted water forms rivers which flow down the mountains and into the Tarim Basin, never reaching the sea. Surrounded by desert, some rivers feed the oases where the water is used for irrigation while others flow to salt lakes and marshes.
The Tarim Basin is believed to contain large potential reserves of petroleum and natural gas. Methane comprises over 70 percent of the natural gas reserve, with variable contents of ethane (<1% ~18%) and propane (<0.5% ~9%). China National Petroleum Corporation's comprehensive exploration of the Tarim basin between 1989 and 1995 led to the identification of 26 oil- and gas-bearing structures. These occur at deeper depths and in scattered deposits. Beijing aims to develop Xinjiang into China's new energy base for the long run, supplying one-fifth of the country's total oil supply by 2010, with an annual output of 35 million tonnes. On June 10, 2010 Baker Hughes announced an agreement to work with PetroChina Tarim Oilfield Co. to supply oilfield services, including both directional and vertical drilling systems, formation evaluation services, completion systems and artificial lift technology for wells drilled into foothills formations greater than 7,500 meters (24,600 feet) deep with pressures greater than 20,000 psi (1379 bar) and bottomhole temperatures of approximately 160°C (320°F). Electrical submersible pumping (ESP) systems will be employed to dewater gas and condensate wells. PetroChina will fund any joint development.
It is speculated that the Tarim Basin may be one of the last places in Asia to have become inhabited: It is surrounded by mountains and irrigation technologies might have been necessary.
The Northern Silk Road on one route bypassed the Tarim Basin north of the Tian Shan mountains and traversed it on three oases-dependent routes: One north of the Taklamakan Desert, one south, and a middle one connecting both through the Lop Nor region.
The Tocharian languages were once spoken in the Tarim Basin. They were the easternmost group of Indo-European languages, and may be related to the "Yuezhi" (Chinese 月氏; Wade–Giles: Yüeh-Chih). Besides Tocharian, various Eastern Iranian Khotanese Scythian dialects were also spoken.
The Yuezhi were overrun by the Xiongnu, then the Xiongnu tried to invade the western region of China, but ultimately lost and lost the area to the Chinese. The Han Chinese wrested control of the Tarim Basin from the Xiongnu at the end of the 1st century under the leadership of Gen. Ban Chao (32–102 CE).
The powerful Kushans expanded back into the Tarim Basin in the 1st–2nd centuries CE, where they established a kingdom in Kashgar and competed for control of the area with nomads and Chinese forces. They introduced the Brahmi script, the Indian Prakrit language for administration, and Buddhism, playing a central role in the Silk Road transmission of Buddhism to Eastern Asia.
Although archaeological findings are of interest in the Tarim Basin, the prime impetus for exploration was petroleum and natural gas. Recent research with help of GIS database have provided a fine-grained analysis of the ancient oasis of Niya on the Silk Road. This research led to significant findings; remains of hamlets with wattle and daub structures as well as farm land, orchards, vineyards, irrigation pools and bridges. The oasis at Niya preserves the ancient landscape. Here also have been found hundreds of 3rd and 4th century wooden accounting tablets at several settlements across the oasis. These texts are in the Kharosthi script native to today's Pakistan and Afghanistan. The texts are legal documents such as tax lists, and contracts containing detailed information pertaining to the administration of daily affairs.
Additional excavations have unearthed tombs with mummies, tools, ceramic works, painted pottery and other artistic artifacts. Such diversity was encouraged by the cultural contacts resulting from this area's position on the Silk Road. Early Buddhist sculptures and murals excavated at Miran show artistic similarities to the traditions of Central Asia and North India and stylistic aspects of paintings found there suggest that Miran had a direct connection with the West, specifically Rome and its provinces.
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