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Military service station
Tian Shui Hai Bing Zhan .jpg
Sign for the Tianshuihai service station
Kashmir location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location relative to the greater Kashmir region
Trans-Karakoram Tract and Aksai Chin relief location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location relative to Trans-Karakoram Tract and Aksai Chin, China
India Ladakh location map UN view.svg
Red pog.svg
Location relative to Indian-administered Ladakh
Coordinates: 35°17′49″N79°33′40″E / 35.297°N 79.561°E / 35.297; 79.561
Administering countryChina
Province Xinjiang Autonomous Region
Prefecture Hotan
4,850 m (15,910 ft)

Tianshuihai [2] [3] (Chinese :甜水海; pinyin :Tiánshuǐ hǎi), alternately spelled Tien Shui Hai, [4] is a salt water lake in the disputed Aksai Chin region administered by China as part of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region (Hotan County, Hotan Prefecture), [5] which is also claimed by India. The lake's basin is a small plain, formerly known as the Thaldat basin [6] or Mapothang. [7] The lake drains the Thaldat stream that flows from the southwest. [6] It is located east of the Lokzhung Range and northwest of the Aksai Chin Lake. [8]


The Xinjiang–Tibet Highway of the 1950s was laid close to the lake, and an army service station was built on its banks, called the Tianshuihai service station. [9] [10] Around 2000, an improved national highway (G219) was laid on a new alignment further to the east, and the Tianshuihai service station was moved to a new location, closer to the new alignment.


The name Tianshuihai means "sweet water sea" in Chinese, supposedly originating in local army folklore about a dying soldier whose last words before passing were that he wanted to taste sweetened water. [11]


Thaldat Mapothang and Aksai Chin basins shown towards the top right, along with the route from Hot Springs (Survey of India, 1916) Thaldat-Aksai-Chin-SoI-1916.jpg
Thaldat Mapothang and Aksai Chin basins shown towards the top right, along with the route from Hot Springs (Survey of India, 1916)
Tianshuihai lake basin Tianshuihai basin.jpg
Tianshuihai lake basin

The Tianshuihai basin (or Thaldat basin) is at the northeastern corner of the Lokzhung Range of hills, which divide the Aksai Chin region into two distinct halves (called Lingzithang Plains and Kuenlun Plains by geologist Frederic Drew). [12] [13] The lake is said to drain a very large area, via the Thaldat stream that flows through the Lokzhung Range in a northeasterly direction. [6]

The Thaldat area forms a small plain, which is covered with soft salt and disconnected watered pools from the Thaldat stream and its substreams (which have been referred to as "Thaldat lakes"). The ground is described as sterile. [6] However, on the western edge of the plain, at the foot of Lokzhung hills, patches of vegetation were reported by Henry Cayley, who explored the area as the British Joint Commissioner in Ladakh. The local guides referred to these patches as "Thaldat". Cayley also reported that fuel was "plentiful". [14]

Drew reported kyang (Tibetan wild ass) frequenting the basin, which was seen to be their watering place. Drew reported a two-mile-long track made by them. [15]

The Tianshuihai lake has a depth of 56.32 metres (184.8 ft). [5] All the lakes in the region are saltwater lakes. [16] Geologically, the area is part of a terrane that was formed in early Mesozoic. [17]


Routes explored during the Forsyth Mission to Yarkand (Trotter 1873) Map of Tibet and Pangong Lake in 1873 from Hindutagh-pass-aksai-chin-center2-1873 (cropped).jpg
Routes explored during the Forsyth Mission to Yarkand (Trotter 1873)

In 1857, Adolphe Schlagintweit, crossed the Aksai Chin plateau via the Thaldat basin. He was led through the route by a Yarkandi guide called Mahomed Ameen. Schagintweit was executed in Kashgar and did not get an opportunity to describe his explorations. Ameen is said to have given an imprecise description of the route to the British. [18]

In 1865, the surveyor W. H. Johnson surveyed the Aksai Chin region and took the same route as Schlagintweit had done earlier. He too crossed the Askai Chin plains, and went up to Khotan at the invitation of its then ruler. [19]

In 1867, the British stationed Henry Cayley as a Joint Commissioner in Ladakh for supporting British Indian trade through Ladakh. Cayley explored routes through the Aksai Chin plateau, including Thaldat. He noted that his Ladakhi porters seemed to know the place well and also that they found the name "Mapothang" objectionable in the Tibetan language. [20]

In 1870, a trade mission was sent to Yarkand under the leadership of T. D. Forsyth, during which all the routes through Aksai Chin were explored. It appears that two routes to the west of Thaldat (through Samzungling and Lingzithang) were found preferable, Thaldat fell out of interest after this. [21]

Service station

  1. 1 2 Anna Orton (2010). India's Borderland Disputes: China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Epitome Books. pp. 18–. ISBN   978-93-80297-15-6. The China National Highway 219 ... passes through no towns in Aksai Chin, only some military posts and truck stops, such as the very small Tianshuihai (el. 4,850 m (15,900 ft)) post.
  2. Concise World Atlas (6 ed.). Dorling Kindersley. 2013. p.  150. ISBN   978-1-4654-0227-1 via Internet Archive. Tianshuihai
  3. Collins World Atlas Illustrated Edition (3rd ed.). HarperCollins. 2007. p.  82. ISBN   978-0-00-723168-3 via Internet Archive. Tianshuihai
  4. Avouac, Jean-Philippe; Dobremez, Jean-François; Bourjot, Laurence (1996). "Palaeoclimatic interpretation of a topographic profile across middle Holocene regressive shorelines of Longmu Co (Western Tibet)". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 120 (1–2): 93–104. Bibcode:1996PPP...120...93A. doi:10.1016/0031-0182(96)88700-1. ISSN   0031-0182. based on meteorological data collected at Tien Shui Hai
  5. 1 2 Zhu, Zhaoyu; Ku, Teh-Lung; Luo, Shangde; Zhou, Houyun; Wen, Qizhong; Li, Shijie; Li, Bingyuan; Li, Hongchun (2001). "Age dating of lacustrine sediments in Lake Tianshuihai of the Tibetan Plateau by using U-series isochron method and its significance". Chinese Science Bulletin. 46 (10): 862–866. Bibcode:2001ChSBu..46..862Z. doi:10.1007/BF02900440. ISSN   1001-6538. S2CID   140723928.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Norin 1946, pp. 28–29.
  7. Gazetteer of Kashmir and Ladak, Calcutta: Superintendent of Government Printing, 1890, p. 814
  8. 地貌气候. 和田县政府门户网站 (in Simplified Chinese). 29 April 2019. Retrieved 23 December 2019. 和田县境内有主要湖泊5处:{...}甜水海;[ dead link ]
  9. 1 2 "45 Days Ride along Dragon's Backbone: Kashgar to Lhasa". TibetTour.org. Retrieved 30 December 2019. the last stop in Xinjiang, the tianshuihai[ sic ] Army Service Station, which is the highest Station in China. It is expensive to stay overnight at the Army Service Station, so we suggest that you camp nearby.
  10. Tibet. Lonely Planet (7 ed.). February 2008. p. 2,339 via Internet Archive. Tianshuihai{...}From here the road turns south, and climbs to the Khitai Pass (kilometre marker 535; 5150m), past the military base of Tianshuihai.
  11. 陈金财; 徐俊 (7 December 2016). 杜麒麟; 孙和静 (eds.). "走进天路兵站甜水海 体会官兵生活的苦与乐" [Enter the army outpost Tianshuihai on the skyward road, experience the hardship and joy of army life]. 中国陆军网 (in Chinese). army.81.cn. Archived from the original on 13 December 2019. 甜水海的来历,曾有这样一个故事:过去,站里有名老兵,临终前紧紧拉着老站长的手说,我想喝口甜水,说完便闭上了眼睛。后来,甜水海这个名字便成了历代官兵最美好的精神寄托。 ... 从1959年建站起,兵站所有的生活用水,都要到90公里外的"死人沟"泉水湖去拉,来回一趟至少6个小时,如果到了冬季,还得破冰取水。
  12. Drew 1875, p. 344.
  13. Norin 1946, p. 25.
  14. Cayley 1868, p. 36.
  15. Drew 1875, p. 352.
  16. "新藏线第七天,甜水海至死人沟,骑行在海拔5000米的公路上". 世间彩虹丽日升 (in Chinese). Sina. 9 September 2019. Retrieved 13 December 2019. 甜水海一路过来都是咸水湖
  17. Rui, Zongyao; Goldfarb, Richard J.; Qiu, Yumin; Zhou, Taihe; Chen, Renyi; Pirajno, Franco; Yun, Grace (2002). "Paleozoic–early Mesozoic gold deposits of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, northwestern China". Mineralium Deposita. 37 (3): 393–418. doi:10.1007/s00126-001-0243-6. ISSN   0026-4598. S2CID   129264132. They are predicted to have formed in the Tianshuihai terrane during its early Mesozoic accretion to the amalgamated Tarim–Qaidam–Kunlun cratonic block.
  18. Drew 1875, pp. 331–332.
  19. Drew 1875, p. 332.
  20. Cayley 1868, p. 36: "Both these places were called Thaldat by the guide, and the name seemed well known to many of the coolies; it means "Ice or Snow Ground," and is so called from a lake of snow about a mile to the north out in the open plain. It is called Mapothang in the new survey map, but as this word has an objectionable meaning in the Tibetan language, the name Thaldat given by the coolies, and which seemed well known, is far preferable.".
  21. India, Ministry of External Affairs, ed. (1962), Report of the Officials of the Governments of India and the People's Republic of China on the Boundary Question, Government of India Press
  22. "骑行新藏线d7:红柳滩k486-奇台达坂k536-泉水沟k546-甜水海k592". 不止骑行川藏线攻略 (buzhiqixing.com) (in Chinese). 11 March 2019. Archived from the original on 20 January 2021. Retrieved 28 January 2020. 根据国家的法律法规,兵站是不允许接纳外人,靠近兵站属于违法行为,考虑到新藏线旅行的情况,兵站对求助者进行一定程度的接纳,作为礼尚往来,一定要知道感激和礼貌,注意言行举止。
  23. 1 2 陈劲松 (24 August 2001). "甜水海人的本色" [The true character of people from Tianshuihai]. People's Daily (Overseas Edition). Retrieved 13 December 2019. 甜水海兵站,距新藏公路的起点—新疆叶城的零公里处,是575公里。这里海拔4890米,是人民解放军海拔最高、气候最恶劣、条件最艰苦的兵站。
  24. Sandhu, P. J. S.; Shankar, Vinay; Dwivedi, G. G. (6 August 2015). 1962: A View from the Other Side of the Hill. Vij Books India Pvt Ltd. pp. 46–. ISBN   978-93-84464-37-0 . Retrieved 30 December 2019. On the Chinese side, there was only one main communication artery ... Near Tianshuihai, this highway divides into three branch roads leading towards Tianwendian, He Weitan[ sic ] and Kongka Pass Defence Areas respectively.


Traditional Chinese 甜水海
Simplified Chinese 甜水海
Literal meaningsweet water sea