230 years after monk Faxian passed through the Taklimakan Desert, monk Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty called this desert the “Sea of death”.
1300 years after Xuanzang's journey to the west, the only railway looping around a desert in China was built here.
The Taklimakan Desert is an important stop along the ancient Silk Road.
If Xuanzang were standing here, he wouldn't believe his eyes.
Water is needed for the construction of such a railway subgrade.
But the nearby water source is 130 kilometers away from the construction site.
What's more, when sprinkled in the desert, water is quickly absorbed by the sand.
Building a railway here almost seems impossible.
So why would China want to build a railway in this “Sea of death”?
In the seven months from March to September every year, the flights are canceled and highways are closed due to sandstorms.
The people living in the southern part of the desert are almost isolated from the outside world.
In this harsh natural environment, railway is the only stable means of transportation.
So how is solid subgrade built in the desert?
Engineers have found that when sandbed with a water content of 12 to 16 percent is repeatedly run over by heavy road rollers, a solid subgrade will take shape.
Next, Engineers need to lay grids on the subgrade at 60 centimeter intervals to reinforce it.
This procedure is repeated several times.
When the surface of the subgrade can endure a pressure of 150 kilopascals per meter, it is solid enough for trains to run on.
Despite the many challenges, engineers are unfazed.
But there are still dangers to overcome.
Taklimakan is the second largest drifting desert in the world.
65 percent of the 825 km-long Hotan-Ruoqiang Railway is in the windy and sandy area where the sand dunes move at an average speed of 20 meters per year.
To avoid the threat of quicksand, five 15 to 30 meter high Railway bridges are built in places where the wind is the strongest.
为了避免流沙的威胁，在风力最强的地方修建了5座15 - 30米高的铁路桥
This way, the drifting sand beneath the railway tracks won't affect the train's operation.
More than one thousand years ago, Faxian risked his life on a 35-day trek through the Taklimakan Desert.
It was a much more dangerous time.
The construction of the Hotan-Ruoqiang Railway will provide the people living in the Taklimakan Desert with access to unimpeded transportation.
Be it in the plateau or the desert, China has achieved its goal of common development with the help of Science and Technology.
This is fantastic China.