Taklimakan or Takla Makan (täˌkləməkänˈ) [key], vast sandy desert, c.125,000 sq mi (323,750 sq km), central Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, NW China, between the Kunlun Mts. on the south and the Tian Shan Mts. and Tarim River on the north; occupies most of the Tarim basin. The Taklimakan is a bleak and uninhabited region, rimmed by many oases linked by caravan routes. Numerous mountain streams disappear into the desert, which is traversed by the channel of the Hotan (Khotan), an intermittent stream. The chief towns and oases are Shache (Yarkant) and Hotan. The earliest Chinese contacts with the West were made along the Taklimakan oases.