PLAIN OF TSAIDAM.
Two days' march from the residence of Tsing-hai-wang we left the mountains behind us. As we crossed the last spurs of the southern range we saw stretching before us the level plain of Tsaidam, bounded on the north, east, and south by mountains, but extending westwards in one continued expanse, as far, according to the natives, as Lake Lob-nor.
The plain of Tsaidam, which at a comparatively recent geological age formed the bed of a huge lake, is now covered with morasses, so thickly impregnated with salt as to be encrusted with a layer in some places half-an-inch to an inch in thickness, resembling ice. Here too are shaking bogs, small rivers and lakes; and in the western part of the plain the large Lake of Kara-nor. The most important of its rivers is the Baian-gol, about 1,600 feet wide where we crossed it, but of inconsiderable depth, in fact, not more than three feet, with a soft slimy bed. According to the Mongols the Baian-gol flows out of Lake Toso-nor at the eastern extremity of the Burkhan Buddha, and after a course of about 200 miles loses itself in the marshes of Western Tsaidam.
The saline argillaceous soil of this region is ill-suited to vegetation. With the exception of a few kinds of marshy grasses, which in places grow together and form meadows, the whole expanse is
- The boundary of Tsaidam lies a little over sixteen miles to the south of Dulan-kit.
- On the north, by the western continuation of the Southern Koko-nor range, on the south by the Burkhan Buddha mountains of Tibet, and on the east by some transverse chains which unite the two systems.