east of the Tarim Basin, on the Ancient Silk Road, Lop Nur was
China’s second largest inland lake covering around 3,000 square
The lake was formed 2 million years ago. Melted snow and rain water flow all the way down the Tianshan and Kunlun Mountains and deposited and emptied into the low-lying area and formed the lake.
It was such a big lake that people had mistaken it as the source of the Yellow River for over 2,000 years.
But as the deterioration of natural environment and dramatic increase of water demand resulted from the population boom in the fourth century, the water amount reduced gradually. In Qing Dynasty, people could only see a very small pond.
In 1950s, the lake made a comeback and regained sufficient water-supply because the course of the Tarim River was changed to flow through it. In 1972, the lake completely dried up and today visitors can see nothing more than a vast desert.