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Qinghai Lake
Qinghai Lake, historically known as Kokonor (from the Mongolian name), is a salt lake situated in the province of Qinghai, and is the largest lake in China. It is located about 100 km west of the provincial capital of Xining at 3,205 m (10,515 feet) above sea level in a depression of the Tibetan Plateau in the former Tibetan province of Amdo.Twenty-three rivers and streams empty into Qinghai Lake.

The lake is 5,694 km², or 2,278 square miles large (some sources say 4,635 km²) but shrinking, and 360 km (220 miles) in circumference.[citation needed] Despite its salinity, it has an abundance of fish, such as the edible hungy.
Like most sacred lakes in Tibet, pilgrims circumambulate it. Przhevalsky estimated it would take about 8 days by horse or 15 walking to circumambulate the lake, but pilgrims report it takes about 18 days on horseback, and one took 23 days walking to complete the circuit.

There is an island in the western part of the lake with a temple and a few hermitages called "Mahdeva, the Heart of the Lake" (mTsho snying Ma h de wa) which used to be home to about twenty monks. No boat was used during summer so, only when the lake froze over in winter could monks reach the mainland or pilgrims visit the temple - many of whom used to come from Mongolia. A nomad described the size of the island by saying that: "if in the morning a she-goat starts to browse the grass around it clockwise and its kid anti-clockwise, they will meet only in the night, which shows how big the island is."

Qinghai Lake is sandwiched between Hainan and Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures in northeastern Qinghai. The lake is located at the crossroads of several bird migration routes across Asia. Many species use Qinghai as an intermediate stop during migration. As such, it is a focal point in global concerns of avian influenza (H5N1), as a major outbreak here could spread the virus across Europe and Asia, further increasing the chances of a pandemic. Minor outbreaks of H5N1 have already been identified at the lake. At its northeast end are the "Bird Islands" (Cormorant Island and Egg Island), which have been bird sanctuaries of the Qinghai Lake Natural Protection Zone since 1997. The lake often remains frozen for three months continuously in winter.


Prior to the 1960s, 108 freshwater rivers emptied into the lake. As of 2003, 85 % of the river mouths have dried up, including the lakes largest tributary, the Buha River. In between 1959 and 1982, there had been an annual water level drop of 10 centimeters, which was reversed at a rate of 10 cm/year between 1983 to 1989, but has continued to drop since. The Chinese Academy of Sciences reported in 1998 the lake was again threatened with loss of surface area due to livestock over-grazing, land reclamations and natural causes . Lake surface area has decreased 11.7 percent in the period between 1908 and 2000 . As a result of this, or possibly moving sand dune, higher lake floors were exposed, numerous water bodies were separated from the rest of the main lake around since the 20th century. In the 1960s, the 48.9 km² Ghi Lake appeared in the northern part of the lake. During the 1980s, Shdo Lake split out in the northwest covers an area of 19.6 km², while the northeastern Hiyn Lake is 112.5 km² . Another 96.7 km² daughter lake split off in 2004. In addition, the lake has now split into half a dozen more small lakes at the border. The water surface has shrunk by 312km² over the last three decades

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