The Gobi measures over 1,610 km (1,000 mi) from southwest to northeast and 800 km (497 mi) from north to south. The desert is widest in the west, along the line joining the Lake Bosten and the Lop Nor (87°-89° east). It occupies an arc of land 1,295,000 km2 (500,002 sq mi)1 in area, making it fifth largest in the world and Asia's largest. Much of the Gobi is not sandy but is covered with bare rock.
The Gobi has several different Chinese names, including ?? (sh?mò, actually a generic term for deserts in general) and ?? (hành?i, endless sea). In its broadest definition, the Gobi includes the long stretch of desert and semi-desert area extending from the foot of the Pamirs, 77° east, to the Greater Khingan Mountains, 116°-118° east, on the border of Manchuria; and from the foothills of the Altay, Sayan, and Yablonoi mountain ranges on the north to the Kunlun Shan, Altun Shan, and Qilian shan ranges, which form the northern edges of the Tibetan Plateau, on the south.
A relatively large area on the east side of the Greater Khingan range, between the upper waters of the Songhua (Sungari) and the upper waters of the Liao-ho, is also reckoned to belong to the Gobi by conventional usage. On the other hand, geographers and ecologists prefer to regard the western area of the Gobi region (as defined above), the basin of the Tarim in Xinjiang and the desert basin of Lop Nor and Hami (Kumul) as forming a separate and independent desert, called the Taklamakan Desert.
The Nemegt Basin in the northwestern part of the Gobi Desert (in Mongolia) is famous for its fossil treasures, including early mammals, dinosaur eggs, and even prehistoric stone implements, some 100,000 years old.
Photo by Chinzo