The Kunlun Mountains constitute one of the longest mountain chains in Asia, extending for more than 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi). In the broadest sense, the chain forms the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau south of the Tarim Basin. The name originated from the Mongolian word Хөндлөн Khöndlön, meaning "Horizontal", referring to its characteristics.
The exact definition of this range varies. From the Pamirs of Tajikistan, the Kunlun Mountains run east along the border between Xinjiang and Tibet autonomous regions to the Sino-Tibetan ranges in Qinghai province. They stretch along the southern edge of what is now called the Tarim Basin, the infamous Takla Makan desert, and the Gobi Desert. A number of important rivers flow from the range including the Karakash River ('Black Jade River') and the Yurungkash River ('White Jade River'), which flow through the Khotan Oasis into the Taklamakan Desert.
The Kunlun Pass
Altyn-Tagh or Altun Range is one of the chief northern ranges of the Kunlun. Its northeastern extension Qilian Shan is another main northern range of the Kunlun. In the south main extension is the Min Shan. Bayan Har Mountains, a southern branch of the Kunlun Mountains, forms the watershed between the catchment basins of China's two longest rivers, the Yangtze River and the Yellow River.
The highest mountain of the Kunlun Shan is the Kunlun Goddess (7,167 m) in the Keriya area in western Kunlun Shan. Some authorities claim that the Kunlun extends further northwest-wards as far as Kongur Tagh (7,649 m) and the famous Muztagh Ata (7,546 m). But these mountains are physically much more closely linked to the Pamir group (ancient Mount Imeon). The Arka Tagh (Arch Mountain) is in the center of the Kunlun Shan; its highest points are Ulugh Muztagh (6,973 m) and Bukadaban Feng (6,860 m). In the eastern Kunlun Shan the highest peaks are Yuzhu Peak (6,224 m) and Amne Machin [also Dradullungshong] (6,282 m); the latter is the eastern major peak in Kunlun Shan range and is thus considered as the eastern edge of Kunlun Shan range.
Kunlun is originally the name of a mythical mountain believed to be a Taoist paradise. The first to visit this paradise was, according to the legends, King Mu (976-922 BCE) of the Zhou Dynasty. He supposedly discovered there the Jade Palace of the Yellow Emperor, the mythical originator of Chinese culture, and met Hsi Wang Mu (Xi Wang Mu), the 'Spirit Mother of the West' usually called the 'Queen Mother of the West', who was the object of an ancient religious cult which reached its peak in the Han Dynasty, and also had her mythical abode in these mountains.