Kunlun Mountains

The Kunlun Mountains (simplified Chinese: 昆仑山; traditional Chinese: 崑崙山; pinyin: Kūnlún Shān, pronounced [kʰu̯ə́nlu̯ə̌n ʂán]; Mongolian: Хөндлөн Уулс, Khöndlön Uuls; Uyghur: كۇئېنلۇن تاغ تىزمىسى‎) are one of the longest mountain chains in Asia, extending more than 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi). In the broadest sense, the chain forms the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau south of the Tarim Basin.

The exact definition of this range varies. An old source[1] uses Kunlun to mean the mountain belt that runs across the center of China, that is, Kunlun in the narrow sense: Altyn Tagh along with the Qilian and Qin Mountains. A recent source[2] has the Kunlun range forming most of the south side of the Tarim Basin and then continuing east south of the Altyn Tagh. Sima Qian (Records of the Grand Historian, scroll 123) says that Emperor Wu of Han sent men to find the source of the Yellow River and gave the name Kunlun to the mountains at its source. The name seems to have originated as a semi-mythical location in the classical Chinese text Classic of Mountains and Seas.

Kunlun Mountains
Cordillère du Kunlun
View of Western Kunlun Shan from the Tibet-Xinjiang highway
Highest point
PeakLiushi Shan
Elevation7,167 m (23,514 ft)
Native nameKūnlún Shān
State/ProvinceTibet, Qinghai, Xinjiang
Range coordinates36°N 84°E / 36°N 84°ECoordinates: 36°N 84°E / 36°N 84°E
Borders onGobi Desert
Kunlun Mountains
Kunlun (Chinese characters)
"Kunlun" in Simplified (top) and Traditional (bottom) Chinese characters
Simplified Chinese昆仑山
Traditional Chinese崑崙山
PostalKwenlun Mountains


Map of Tibet in the 13th century and Central Asian trade routes (cropped)
Kunlun range
Karakash River in the Western Kunlun Shan, seen from the Tibet-Xinjiang highway
Karakash River in the Western Kunlun Shan, seen from the Tibet-Xinjiang highway

From the Pamirs of Tajikistan, it runs east along the border between Xinjiang and Tibet autonomous regions to the Sino-Tibetan ranges in Qinghai province.[3] It stretches along the southern edge of what is now called the Tarim Basin, the infamous Takla Makan or "sand-buried houses" desert, and the Gobi Desert. A number of important rivers flow from it including the Karakash River ('Black Jade River') and the Yurungkash River ('White Jade River'), which flow through the Khotan Oasis into the Taklamakan Desert.

The Kunlun Pass

Altyn-Tagh or Altun Range is one of the chief northern ranges of the Kunlun. Its northeastern extension Qilian Shan is another main northern range of the Kunlun. In the south main extension is the Min Shan. Bayan Har Mountains, a southern branch of the Kunlun Mountains, forms the watershed between the catchment basins of China's two longest rivers, the Yangtze River and the Yellow River.

The highest mountain of the Kunlun Shan is the Kunlun Goddess (7,167 m) in the Keriya area in western Kunlun Shan. Some authorities claim that the Kunlun extends further northwest-wards as far as Kongur Tagh (7,649 m) and the famous Muztagh Ata (7,546 m). But these mountains are physically much more closely linked to the Pamir group (ancient Mount Imeon). The Arka Tagh (Arch Mountain) is in the center of the Kunlun Shan; its highest points are Ulugh Muztagh (6,973 m) and Bukadaban Feng (6,860 m). In the eastern Kunlun Shan the highest peaks are Yuzhu Peak (6,224 m) and Dradullungshong (6,282 m); the latter is the eastern major peak in Kunlun Shan range and is thus considered as the eastern edge of Kunlun Shan range.

The mountain range formed at the northern edges of the Cimmerian Plate during its collision, in the Late Triassic, with Siberia, which resulted in the closing of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean.

The range has very few roads and in its 3,000 km length is crossed by only two. In the west, Highway 219 traverses the range en route from Yecheng, Xinjiang to Lhatse, Tibet. Further east, Highway 109 crosses between Lhasa and Golmud.

Kunlun Volcanic Group

Over 70 volcanic cones form the Kunlun Volcanic Group. They are not volcanic mountains, but cones. As such, they are not counted among the world volcanic mountain peaks. The group, however, musters the heights of 5,808 metres (19,055 ft) above sea level (35°30′N 80°12′E / 35.5°N 80.2°E). If they were considered volcanic mountains, they would constitute the highest volcano in Asia and China and second highest in the Eastern Hemisphere (after Mount Kilimanjaro) and one of Volcanic Seven Summits by elevation. (Mount Damavand is the highest volcano in Asia, not the Kunlun cones.) The last known eruption in the volcanic group was on May 27, 1951.[4]


Peak in Kunlun range
Peak in Kunlun range

Kunlun is originally the name of a mythical mountain believed to be a Taoist paradise. The first to visit this paradise was, according to the legends, King Mu (976-922 BCE) of the Zhou Dynasty. He supposedly discovered there the Jade Palace of the Yellow Emperor, the mythical originator of Chinese culture, and met Hsi Wang Mu (Xi Wang Mu), the 'Spirit Mother of the West' usually called the 'Queen Mother of the West', who was the object of an ancient religious cult which reached its peak in the Han Dynasty, and also had her mythical abode in these mountains.

In popular culture

The Kunlun mountains (spelled "Kuen-Lun" in the book) are described as the location of the Shangri-La monastery in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by English writer James Hilton.

The mountains are the site of the fictional city of K'un Lun in the Marvel Comics Iron Fist series and the TV show of the same name.[5]


  1. ^ L. Richard, 'Comprehensive Geography of the Chinese Empire',1905
  2. ^ National Geographic Atlas of China, 2008
  3. ^ "Kunlun Mountains". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  4. ^ "Kunlun Volcanic Group". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2014-03-15.
  5. ^ Young, Sage (March 16, 2017). "What Is K'un-Lun In 'Iron Fist'? The "Lost City" Has A Mystical History". www.bustle.com. Bustle Digital Group. Retrieved November 19, 2018. It's located in the Kunlun Mountains in Tibet, which is a real Chinese mountain range.

Further reading

  • Munro-Hay, Stuart Aksum. Edinburgh: University Press. 1991. ISBN 0-7486-0106-6.

External links

2001 Kunlun earthquake

The 2001 Kunlun earthquake also known as the 2001 Kokoxili earthquake, occurred on 14 November 2001 at 09:26 UTC (17:26 local time), with an epicenter near Kokoxili, close to the border between Qinghai and Xinjiang in a remote mountainous region. With a magnitude of 7.8 Mw it was the most powerful earthquake in China for 5 decades. No casualties were reported, presumably due to the very low population density and the lack of high-rise buildings. This earthquake was associated with the longest surface rupture ever recorded on land, ~450 km.

Argu Tagh

For main article, see Pamir Mountains.

Argu Tagh (Turkic Argu Tag and Kumysh Tag meaning "Silver Mountains", Chinese Qinling meaning "Onion Mountains") is a mountain range separating the Turan Depression from the Xinjiang region of China. The Argu Tagh range is a northern extension of Kunlun Mountains, it continues northeast to the basin of Yili River, northwest beyond the Balkhash Lake, westward and northeast from Kashgar, stretching along the southern edge of the Tarim Basin, and forming the southern edge of the Taklamakan Desert. As "Onion Mountains", the Argu Tagh range was frequently mentioned in the Chinese Annals starting in the 2nd century BC, played a prominent role in the routes of the ancient Silk Road, and was a theater of many historical military and political events.

Bangda Lake

Bangda Lake (Tibetan: པང་བཏགས་མཚོ, Wylie: pang btags mtsho; Chinese: 邦达错; pinyin: Bāngdá Cuò), also Bangdag or Bangdacuo, is a glacial lake in Ngari Prefecture in the northwest of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. It lies in the western Kunlun Mountains, to the southeast of Guozha Lake. Located at an altitude of 4902 metres, it covers an area of 106 square kilometres with a maximum depth of 21.6 metres and contains 90 glaciers.

Bayan Har Mountains

The Bayan Har Mountains (Chinese: 巴颜喀拉山; Mongolian: Баянхар уул, Bayanhar ūl, meaning "rich black" Tibetan:བ་ཡན་ཁ་ལ་རག་མོ meaning “the Mother crow), formerly known as the Bayen-káras, are a mountain range in Qinghai Province, China. It can be viewed as one of the branches of the Kunlun Mountains. It separates the drainage areas of the Yellow River and the Yangtze rivers. The source of the Yellow River is in the basin of Yueguzonglie, which is located in the northern part of the range.

Chinese ship Kunlun Shan

Kunlun Shan is the lead ship of the People's Republic of China's Type 071 amphibious transport dock Yuzhao class. The ship was laid down in the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding in Shanghai in June 2006 and was launched on 21 December 2006. After finishing trials the ship was commissioned to the South Sea Fleet on 30 November 2007, at Zhanjiang Naval Base. Its estimated production cost is USD300 million.The ship carries the name of the Kunlun Mountains.

Guozha Lake

Guozha Lake, also Gozha Co, Gozha Tso or Guozhacuo, also known as Lake Lighten, is a glacial lake in Rutog County in the Ngari Prefecture in the northwest of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. It lies in the western Kunlun Mountains to the northwest of Bangda Lake, not far from the regional border with Xinjiang. Located at an altitude of 5080 metres, it covers an area of 244 square kilometres with a maximum depth of 81.9 metres and his drainage basin contains 62 glaciers.


Hindutash, also known as Hindu-tagh Pass, is a historical mountain pass in the western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (formerly, Chinese Turkestan) of the People's Republic of China. The pass cuts through the Kunlun Mountains connecting the now-deserted town of Kangxiwar, formerly Kengshewar, (36° 11' 58 N, 78° 46' 50 E) in the Karakash River valley to the town of Pusha, (36.3833° N, 79° E), formerly Bushia, in the Yurungkash River valley, and also connects to the road to the city of Hotan, formerly Khotan. (See maps on right.)

A recent detailed Chinese map labels the pass 印地他什达坂 (Yìndì-Tāshí Dábǎn), and shows only a "track", but no road, going over it. The same map showed no other roads or tracks crossing the Kunlun within Hotan County.


The Karakoram is a large mountain range spanning the borders of Pakistan, India, and China, with the northwest extremity of the range extending to Afghanistan and Tajikistan. It begins in the Wakhan Corridor (Afghanistan) in the west and encompasses the majority of Gilgit–Baltistan (Pakistan) and extends into Ladakh (India), and the disputed Aksai Chin region controlled by China. It is the second highest mountain range in the world, and part of the complex of ranges including the Pamir Mountains, the Hindu Kush and the Himalayan Mountains.. The Karakoram has eight summits over 7,500 m (24,600 ft) height, with four of them exceeding 8,000 m (26,000 ft): K2, the second highest peak in the world at 8,611 m (28,251 ft), Gasherbrum I, Broad Peak and Gasherbrum II.

The range is about 500 km (311 mi) in length, and is the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside the polar regions. The Siachen Glacier at 76 kilometres (47 mi) and the Biafo Glacier at 63 kilometres (39 mi) rank as the world's second and third longest glaciers outside the polar regions.The Karakoram is bounded on the east by the Aksai Chin plateau, on the northeast by the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, and on the north by the river valleys of the Yarkand and Karakash rivers beyond which lie the Kunlun Mountains. At the northwest corner are the Pamir Mountains. The southern boundary of the Karakoram is formed, west to east, by the Gilgit, Indus, and Shyok rivers, which separate the range from the northwestern end of the Himalaya range proper. These rivers flow northwest before making an abrupt turn southwestward towards the plains of Pakistan. Roughly in the middle of the Karakoram range is the Karakoram Pass, which was part of a historic trade route between Ladakh and Yarkand but now inactive.

The Tashkurghan National Nature Reserve and the Pamir Wetlands National Nature Reserve in the Karalorun and Pamir mountains have been nominated for inclusion in UNESCO in 2010 by the National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO and has tentatively been added to the list.

Kunlun (mythology)

The Kunlun (traditional Chinese: 崑崙; simplified Chinese: 昆仑; pinyin: Kūnlún; Wade–Giles: K'un-lun) or Kunlun Shan is a mountain or mountain range in Chinese mythology, an important symbol representing the axis mundi and divinity.

The mythological Kunlun is based partially on the Kailash temple and partially on the Kunlun Mountains of the Tibetan Plateau. Different locations of the Kunlun have been given in the various legends, myths, and semi-historical accounts in which it appears. These accounts typically describe Kunlun as the dwelling place of various gods and goddesses, where fabled plants and mythical creatures may also be found. Many important events in Chinese mythology took place on the Kunlun.

Kunlun Fault

The Kunlun fault is a strike-slip fault to the north side of Tibet. Slippage along the 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) long fault has occurred at a constant rate for the last 40,000 years. This has resulted in a cumulative offset of more than 400 metres (1,300 ft). The fault is seismically active, most recently causing the magnitude 7.8 2001 Kunlun earthquake.

Kunlun Sect

The Kunlun Sect is a fictional martial arts sect mentioned in several works of wuxia fiction. It is usually featured as a leading orthodox sect in the wulin (martial artists' community). It is named after the place where it is based, the Kunlun Mountains in western China, near modern Qinghai and Xinjiang provinces. Due to its geographical location, it was hardly known to martial artists in the jianghu before its rise to prominence.

Kunlun Volcanic Group

Kunlun volcanic group, also known as Ashikule, is a volcanic field in northwestern Tibet. Eight other volcanic fields are also in the area. The field is within a basin that also contains three lakes.

Volcanism in the field has produced lavas and cones, with rocks having varying compositions dominated by trachyandesite. Volcanism in the field may be influenced by faults in the area.

The dates obtained from the field range from 5.0 ± 0.6 million years ago to 74,000 ± 4,000 years ago. An eruption of Ashi volcano was observed in 1951, making this one of China's youngest volcanoes.

Lake Ayakum

Ayakum Lake is a lake near the northern boundary of the Tibetan Plateau, to the southeast of the Kunlun Mountains. While many of the small glacier and snowmelt-fed streams on the Plateau give rise to major South-east Asian rivers (including the Mekong and Yangtze), some empty into saline lakes such as Lake Ayakum.

Ming Cult

The Ming Cult is a fictional cult and martial arts sect featured in the wuxia novel The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber by Jin Yong, first published in serial form from 1961 to 1963. It is also briefly mentioned in The Legend of the Condor Heroes, another novel also by Jin Yong. It is loosely based on Manichaeism, an actual gnostic religion which originated in Persia and spread to other parts of the world, including China. The cult is based on Bright Peak in the Kunlun Mountains and has several other bases spread throughout the land. Its most powerful skills are the 'Heaven and Earth Great Shift' (乾坤大挪移) and the 'Martial Arts of the Holy Flame Tablets' (聖火令武功).

Mount Buzhou

Mount Buzhou was an ancient Chinese mythological mountain which according to old texts lay to the northwest of the Kunlun Mountains, in a location today referred to as the Pamir Mountains. It is the mountain said to have supported the heavens, against which the Chinese water god Gonggong smashed his head in a fit of anger, requiring the goddess Nüwa to repair the sky. Nevertheless, once the spacer between the Earth and Sky was damaged, ever after the land of China permanently tilted to the southeast, causing the rivers all to flow in that same direction.

Muztagh Ata

Muztagh Ata, or Muztagata (Uyghur: مۇز تاغ ئاتا, Музтағ Ата, literally "ice-mountain-father"; Chinese: 慕士塔格峰; pinyin: Mùshìtǎgé Fēng; formerly known as Mount Tagharma or Taghalma, and Wi-tagh), is the second highest (7509 metres) of the mountains which form the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau (not the second highest of the mountains of the Tibetan Plateau). It is sometimes regarded as being part of the Kunlun Mountains, although physically it is more closely connected to the Pamirs. It is also one of the relatively easier 7,000 m peaks in the world to climb, due to its gentle western slope and the comparatively drier weather of Xinjiang, though a thorough acclimatization period and a very strong physical condition are crucial for success.

Tarim River

The Tarim River (Chinese: 塔里木河; pinyin: Tǎlǐmù Hé; Uyghur: تارىم دەرياسى‎, ULY: Tarim deryasi), known in Sanskrit as the Śītā is an endorheic river in Xinjiang, China. It is the principal river of the Tarim Basin, a desert region of Central Asia between the Tian Shan and Kunlun Mountains. The river historically terminated at Lop Nur, but today reaches no further than Taitema Lake before drying out.

It is the longest inland river in China, with an annual flow of 4 to 6 billion cubic metres (3,200,000 to 4,900,000 acre⋅ft) or 158.5 cubic metres per second (5,600 cu ft/s). Its basin is home to nearly 10 million Uyghur and other ethnic minorities.

Vulpes qiuzhudingi

The ancestral Arctic fox Vulpes qiuzhudingi is an extinct species of fox found in the Himalayas. It was primarily carnivorous. The fossils, dating from between 5.08 and 3.60 million years ago, were found in the Zanda Basin and Kunlun Mountains of Tibet. It was named after Qiu Zhuding, a paleontologist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The species is believed to be the ancestor of Vulpes lagopus, the modern Arctic fox, which would support the "Out of Tibet" theory: namely, that a number of current arctic species trace their ancestry to species originally from the Tibetan Plateau.

Zheng Lun

Zhen Lun (Chinese: 郑伦; Pinyin: Zhèng Lún) is a character featured within the famed classic Chinese novel Fengshen Yanyi.

Zheng Lun was originally the head student under Duè Zhenrèn (度厄真人) of the Western Kunlun Mountains. Zheng Lun would be destined to assist in the founding of the new dynasty and one day attain the rank of God. For years upon end, Zheng Lun would train his legendary black crow troops and attain perfection with his Evil-Taming bars. At one point in time, Zheng Lun would head down from the Kunlun Mountains to serve as a loyal sword of Su Hu, the head of Ji province.

At one point within the coalition against Su Hu, Zheng Lun would personally take action against the new enemy, Chong Heihu, with the words, "My lord! I will capture Chong Heihu for you! Or I will present you with my head before all these generals." So saying, Zheng Lun would mount his golden-eyed beast, grab hold of his two bars, and set forth with his great army of three thousand black crow troops.

In appearance before Chong Heihu, it could easily be seen that Zheng Lun's hair was like that of golden needles, and his face was like that of a purple plum. Immediately, Zheng Lun's great taming bars would parry off against Chong's duel golden axes, and thus a great battle would ensue between the two renowned warriors. Soon enough, Zheng would recognize the large red gourd atop Chong's back and instantly realize that it is his source for his magic. Thus, Zheng Lun would shoot two large jets from both of his nostrils to suck up Chong's spirit and soul. Once this process was completed, Zheng Lun returned to Ji province with the unconscious Chong as prisoner. Following this point, Zheng Lun would not be featured again for quite some time.

Zheng Lun and Chen Qi (陈奇) was appointed as the deity of Heng Ha Erjiang (哼哈二将) in the end.

Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinKūnlún Shān
Wade–GilesK'un1-lun2 Shan1
IPA[kʰwə́n.lwə̌n ʂán]
Mountain ranges of China
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