mountains extending in a northeasterly direction in Central Asia and western China, between the Kunlun and Nan Shan mountain systems. Stretching for 800 km, the Altyn Tagh divides the Tarim and Tsaidam basins. The side facing the Tarim basin is steep, with elevations exceeding 2,000 -3,000 m, and the side facing the Tsaidam basin slopes gently (500 -1,000 m). Various topographic features can be distinguished. The southwestern part is a mountain system with the highly craggy and dissected Tokkuz Davan Tagh and Ak Tagh ranges, which have a maximum elevation of 6,161 m and are covered with permanent snow and glaciers. The northeastern part consists of a series of short massifs exceeding 5,000 m with small patches of snow. The central part, which abruptly narrows and slopes downward and where ridges of 3,000 -3,500 m predominate, has a relief of soft contours that is lightly dissected. The Altyn Tagh is composed primarily of ancient gneiss, crystal shales, and phyllites. The minerals include chromites and lead, zinc, nickel, and platinum ores. The climate is arid and strongly continental. The biggest rivers, the Cherchen and its tributaries, are in the southwestern part; there are no rivers in the central part. Landscapes of broken gravel and rocky deserts predominate in the foothills. In the valleys that dissect the foothills, the vegetation is represented by plants of genera Ephedra, Haloxylon, Tamarix, and Salsola; large stretches are bare. The upper zone of the mountains is characterized by mountain steppe vegetation and alpine meadows. There are no forests, and the few animals that inhabit the mountains include wild yaks, adda antelopes, bharals, and, in the southwest, chirus.
REFERENCESSinitsyn, V. M. Tsentral’naia Aziia. Moscow, 1959.
Fizicheskaia geografiia Kitaia. Moscow, 1964.
Petrov, M. P. Pustyni Tsentral’noiAzii, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1967.
N. M. KAZAKOVA