Tien shan

This article is about the mountain. For district of Ürümqi, see Tianshan District.

The Tian Shan, also spelled Tien Shan, is a large system of mountain ranges located in Central Asia. The highest peak in the Tian Shan is Victory Peak (Jengish Chokusu), 7,439 metres (24,406 ft).

Local names for the ranges include: 天山 (Chinese; pinyin: Tiān Shān; Wade–Giles: T'ien1 Shan1; literally "Celestial Mountains"), Хан Тәңірі (Kazakh; Khan Tengri; literally "Empyrean God"/"Heavenly Mountains"), Теңир-Тоо (Kyrgyz; Tengri-Too; literally "Heavenly Mountains"/"God's Mountains"/"Mountains of Tengri"), Тэнгэр уул (Mongolian; "Tenger Uul";"Heavenly Mountains") and تەڭرى تاغ (Uyghur; Tengri Tagh).

The Chinese name for Tian Shan may be derived from the Xiongnu language name Qilian (Tsilien; Chinese: 祁连), which was described by Sima Qian in the Records of the Grand Historian as the homeland of the pre-Xiongnu peoples of the region, the Yuezhi, and has been said to refer to the Tian Shan rather than to the range 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) further east now known by this name.[1] The nearby Tannu-Ola Mountains (Tuvan: Таңды-Уула Tangdy-Uula) bear the same name ("heaven/celestial mountains" or "god/spirit mountains").

Geography

Tian Shan lies to the north and west of the Taklamakan Desert and directly north of the Tarim Basin in the border region of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China. In the south it links up with the Pamir Mountains and to north and east it meets the Altai Mountains of Mongolia. It also extends into the Chinese province of Xinjiang and into the northern areas of Pakistan, where it joins the Hindu Kush.

In Western cartography, the eastern end of the Tian Shan is usually understood to be just west of Ürümqi, while the range to the east of that city is known as the Bogda Shan. In Chinese cartography from the Han Dynasty to the present, however, the Tian Shan also includes the Bogda Shan and Barkol ranges.


The Tian Shan are a part of the Himalayan orogenic belt, which was formed by the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates in the Cenozoic era. They are one of the longest mountain ranges in Central Asia and stretch some 2,800 kilometres (1,700 mi) eastward from Tashkent in Uzbekistan.

The highest peak in the Tian Shan is the Victory Peak (пик Победы in Russian or Jengish Chokusu in Kyrgyz) which, at 7,439 metres (24,406 ft), is also the highest point in Kyrgyzstan and is on the border with China. The Tian Shan's second highest peak, Khan Tengri (Lord of the Spirits), straddles the Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan border and at 7,010 metres (23,000 ft) is the highest point of Kazakhstan. Mountaineers class these as the two most northerly peaks over 7,000 metres (23,000 ft) in the world.

The Torugart Pass, at 3,752 metres (12,310 ft), is located at the border between Kyrgyzstan and China's Xinjiang province. The forested Alatau ranges, which are at a lower altitude in the northern part of the Tian Shan, are inhabited by pastoral tribes that speak Turkic languages.

The Tian Shan are separated from the Tibetan Plateau by the Taklimakan Desert and the Tarim Basin to the south.

The major rivers rising in the Tian Shan are the Syr Darya, the Ili River and the Tarim River. The Aksu Canyon is a notable feature in the northwestern Tian Shan.

Continuous permafrost is typically found in the Tian Shan starting at the elevation of about 3,500-3,700 m above the sea level. Discontinuous alpine permafrost usually occurs down to 2,700-3,300 m, but in certain locations, due to the peculiarity of the aspect and the microclimate, it can be found at elevations as low as 2,000 m.[2]

One of the first Europeans to visit and the first to describe the Tian Shan in detail was the Russian explorer Peter Semenov, who did so in the 1850s.

Ranges

The Tian Shan have a number of named ranges which are often mentioned separately. (all distances are approximate)

In China the Tian Shan starts north of Kumul City (Hami) with the U-shaped Barkol Mountains, from about 600 to 400 kilometres (370 to 250 mi) east of Ürümqi. Then the Bogda Shan (god mountains) run from 350 to 40 kilometres (217 to 25 mi) east of Ürümqi. Then there is a low area between Ürümqi and the Turfan Depression. The Borohoro mountains start just south of Ürümqi and run west northwest 450 kilometres (280 mi) separating Dzungaria from the Ili River basin. Their north end abuts on the 200 kilometres (120 mi) Dzungarian Alatau which run east northeast along Sino-Kazakh border. They start 50 kilometres (31 mi) east of Taldykorgan in Kazakhstan and end at the Dzungarian Gate. The Dzungarian Alatau in north, (name?) in middle and Borohoro range in south make a reversed Z or S, the northeast enclosing part of Dzungaria and the southwest enclosing the upper Ili valley.


In Kyrgyzstan the main line of the Tian Shan continues as (name?) from the base of the Borohoros west 570 kilometres (350 mi) to the point where China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan meet. Here is the highest part of the range – the Central Tian Shan, with Peak Pobeda and Khan Tengri. West of this, the Tian Shan split into an ‘eye’, with Issyk Kul Lake in its center. The south side of the lake is the Terskey Alatau and the north side the Kyungey Ala-Too (shady and sunny Ala-Too). North of the Kyungey Ala-Too and parallel to it is the Trans-Ili Alatau in Kazakhstan just south of Almaty. West of the eye, the range continues 400 kilometres (250 mi) as the Kyrgyz Ala-Too, separating Chui Province from Naryn Oblast and then Kazakhstan from the Talas Province. This oblast is the upper valley of the Talas River, the south side of which is the 200 kilometres (120 mi) Talas Ala-Too Range ('Ala-too' is a Kirgiz spelling of Alatau). At the east end of the Talas Alatau the Suusamyr Too range runs southeast enclosing the Suusamyr Valley or plateau.

As for the area south of the Fergana Valley there is a 800 kilometres (500 mi) group of mountains that curves west-southwest from south of Issyk Kul Lake separating the Tarim Basin from the Fergana Valley. The Fergana Range runs northeast towards the Talas Ala-Too and separaties the upper Naryn basin from Fergana proper. The southern side of these mountains merge into the Pamirs in Tajikistan (Alay Mountains and Trans-Alay Range). West of this is the Turkestan Range, which continues almost to Samarkand.

Ice Age

On the north margin of the Tarim basin between the mountain chain of the Kokshaal-Tau in the south and that one of the Terskey Alatau in the north there stretches the 100 to 120 km wide Tian Shan plateau with its set up mountain landscape.The Kokshaal-Tau continues with an overall length of 570 km from W of Pik Dankowa (Dankov, 5986 m) up to east-north-east to Pik Pobedi (Tumor Feng, 7439 m) and beyond it. This mountain chain as well as that of the 300 km long parallel mountain chain of the Terskey Alatau and the Tian Shan plateau situated in between, during glacial times were covered by connected ice-stream-networks and a plateau glacier. Currently the interglacial remnant of this glaciation is formed by the only just 61 km long South Inylschek glacier. The outlet glacier tongues of the plateau glacier flowed to the north as far as down to Lake Issyk Kul (Lake) at 1605 (1609) m asl calving in this 160 km long lake. In the same way strongly glaciated was the in excess of 50 km wide high mountain area of the Kungey Alatau connected north of Issyk Kul and stretching as far as the mountain foreland near Alma Ata. The Kungey Alatau is 230 km long. Down from the Kungey Alatau the glacial glaciers also calved into the Issyk Kul lake.Its Chon-Kemin valley was glaciated up to its inflow into the Chu valley.[3][4][5] From the west-elongation of the Kungey Alatau –that is the Kirgizskiy Alatau range (42°25’N/74° - 75°E) - the glacial glaciers flowed down as far as into the mountain foreland down to 900 m asl (close to the town Bishkek). Among others the Ak-Sai valley glacier has developed there a mountain foreland glacier.[6][7][8] Altogether the glacial Tian Shan glaciation occupied an area of c. 118 000 km² .The glacier snowline (ELA) as altitude limit between glacier feeding area and melting zone had decreased about 1200 altitude metres compared with today. Under the condition of a comparable precipitation ratio there would result from this a depression of the average annual temperature of 7.2 to 8.4°C for the Würm-ice age (Last Glacial period = MIS 2) compared with today. [9]

Ecology

The Tian Shan holds important forests of Schrenk's Spruce (Picea schrenkiana) at altitudes of over 2,000 metres (6,600 ft); the lower slopes have unique natural forests of wild walnuts and apples.[10]

Chinese religion

In Daoism, Xi Wangmu, the Queen Mother of the West, is believed to guard the peach trees of immortality in the Tian Shan.

World Heritage Site

On 2013 Conference of World Heritage, the eastern portion of Tian Shan in western China's Xinjiang is listed as a World Heritage Site.[11]

Footnotes

References

  • The Contemporary Atlas of China. 1988. London: Marshall Editions Ltd. Reprint 1989. Sydney: Collins Publishers Australia.
  • The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World. Eleventh Edition. 2003. Times Books Group Ltd. London.

External links

  • Russian mountaineering site
  • Tien Shan
  • United Nations University (2009) digital video "Finding a place to feed: Kyrgyz shepherds & pasture loss": Shepherd shares family's observations and adaptation to the changing climate in highland pastures of Kyrgyzstan's Tian Shan mountains Accessed 1 December 2009

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.