The Three Predominant Landforms of China
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The Three Predominant Landforms of China

There are three predominant landforms found in China that are controlled by the tectonic framework of the country. They can be best described as desert, mountains and plains.

China has three predominant landforms comprising of desert, lowlands and mountains. Many other landforms are found that literally number in the thousands, but they are all subdivisions of the three predominating landforms. China also has a long seacoast considered by many to be a fourth landform containing more then 6,000 islands with Taiwan being the largest.

To consider these landforms is a study in the topography of China that descends from west to east in three giant steps. The first step is the Qinghai – Xizang (Tibet) plateau with an average height of over 4,000 meters above sea level. This is where the land is upthrust by the collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plant where some of the great mountain ranges of the world are found. The largest of all these ranges is the Himalayas between Nepal and Tibet. North of the Himalayas lay the Kunlun Mountains the largest range found in China. Other ranges of mountains in echelon are found in China including the Tangggula, Gangdise, Nyaingentanlha and the Karakorum Mountains.

The second step includes Yun-Gui Plateau, the Loess Plateau, the Inner Mongolia Plateau, the Tarim Basin, the Jungar Basin and the Sichuan Basin. The desserts of China for the most part are found in this landform in the far west of China becoming more humid the farther east you progress. The loess plateau is made of soil that has its origin in the great glaciers of the Pleistocene. The soil in this area is made from glacial dust that is quite coherent making it possible to dig tunnels that are used as dwellings.

The third step includes a vast area east of the Great Hinggan Ridge. This includes Mt. Taihang, Mt Wushan and Mt. Xuefeng. This area also includes the Main Three Plains including the Nanling Ridge, Great Hinggan Ridge, Changbai Mountain and Mt. Taiwan.

The Nanling Ridge includes an area of hilly land including the ridge.

These are the three predominant landforms of China although some people consider other criteria when judging landforms. These people consider the three primary landforms to be mountain, desert and plains ad China’s primary landforms. Regardless of what criteria you are considering China’s landforms are all controlled by the tectonic framework of the country. This consists of three latitudinal strips and two longitudinal strips so that the country was built in five stages that can be best visualized as taking place in a sort of teeterboard process leaving China as it appears today.


LIU Guanding, Geodynamical Evolution and Tectonic Framework of China, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing 100029 China:

Topographic Map of China:

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Comments (3)

Scholarly researshed and written usual...thanks

Superb geographical study. I learned a lot from this, John.

Good stuff!