|"I'm afraid that desert's impossible to cross."|
|— Professor Zei to Team Avatar.|
The Si Wong Desert is an arid region located in the central Earth Kingdom. It is the largest, driest, and hottest desert on Earth, and due to its extreme climate, the region is almost impossible to cross successfully. The desert is sparsely populated by the Si Wong tribes and beetle-headed merchants, and with the region outside of the control of the Earth Kingdom government, its inhabitants are effectively independent.
Otherwise known as the "Desert of the Dead", the Si Wong Desert is the driest, hottest environment in the world, consisting of miles of barren sand. It housed the largest library in the world before the structure was returned to its original home in the Spirit World.
Only a select few are mentally and physically capable of surviving in this desert for an extended period of time, let alone navigating through it. However, certain desert-dwelling peoples, such as the sandbenders and the beetle-headed merchants, have successfully adapted to the environment. Nevertheless, even they can find themselves victims to common habitual afflictions such as starvation, dehydration, and skin cancer. The desert's ecosystem primarily consists of hallucinogenic cacti, a few scavenger species such as the gilacorn, and the predatory buzzard wasps. It is also home to a large sand shark, which is known to attack people and their ships.
Si Wong Rock
The Si Wong Rock is a gigantic geological formation that rises from the center of the rolling dunes of the Si Wong Desert, looming imposingly over the landscape. Considering its flat, barren surroundings, the rock would appear supernaturally out of place. Ancient sandbender lore tells that the formation was dropped from the heavens by the gods as a demonstration of their great power and anger when human inhabitants had stopped abiding by the rules of their priests.
Regardless of its true origin, the rock is the only notable landscape feature of the barren desert, aside from the now completely buried library, and is thus used as a guidepost by the sandbenders or any others who traverse through the region. In addition to being a visual landmark, the rock is also composed of a metallic ore that gives it magnetic qualities, allowing the sandbenders to create compasses that work throughout the desert, giving them their location in relation to the rock. The rock contains a large hive home to a colony of carnivorous buzzard wasps, who are known to immediately defend their home against anyone who disturbs.
Misty Palms Oasis
- Main article: Misty Palms Oasis
The Misty Palms Oasis is a small town on the edge of the desert. When Aang went to the oasis just before the Hundred Year War, he enjoyed it very much, going so far as to call it pristine, a word he seldom used. At the time, a giant mass of ice was situated in the center of the cantina, and a natural wonder. However, after one hundred years, the wonder ended up as a small, melting chunk of ice, and the entire place around the ice was falling apart; when Team Avatar entered the Misty Palms Oasis, the sign in front fell off. However, by 171 AG, the oasis blossomed into a trading center, featuring several taverns and a modest inn. The cantina is known for its mango beverages which are expertly prepared by a broadswordsman.
Date Grove was a settlement near the Misty Palms Oasis where vagrants commonly came looking for work. The townsfolk were generally tolerant of thieves, though they were known to place criminals in a gibbet, a common punishment in the desert that put the prisoners on display in a high-hanging cage until they succumbed to dehydration. Lek, one of Avatar Kyoshi's earthbending teachers, was an orphan from Date Grove. He and his best friend Chen had a gang of their own, which they ruled by mimicking the older vagrants. One day, after Chen got caught stealing some rotting lychee nuts, the townsfolk put him in a gibbet. For days, Lek tried to save him while the townspeople mocked him. Eventually Chen died in the gibbet, and Lek, rendered unconscious by his relentless efforts to save his friend, was saved by the criminals Jesa and Hark. Some years later, the settlement was abandoned, as the local wells dried up. It was consequently buried by the encroaching desert.
Fort Bosco, named in honor of Earth King Kuei's pet bear, is an Earth Kingdom military facility that serves as an outpost in the Si Wong Desert as well as a temporary prison. It is a small fortification, being comprised of only one building and a ditch surrounding it. Korra and Asami, after being captured fleeing the Misty Palms Oasis, were brought here to aerial transport to take them to Earth Queen Hou-Ting.
Wan Shi Tong's Library
- Main article: Wan Shi Tong's Library
Deep within the desert is an ancient library containing vast amounts of books, scrolls, and other documents with information pertaining to the World of Avatar. It was built and is overseen by the knowledge spirit, Wan Shi Tong. With the help of his Knowledge Seekers, Wan Shi Tong displayed a vast collection of knowledge for others to read so that civilization may better itself.
Although the entire library is immense in size, only its top spire was originally visible from the desert, with the rest buried beneath the sand dunes due to many years of sand buildup. However, a trip to the ancient library by Team Avatar prompted Wan Shi Tong to completely bury it beneath the sand dunes, leaving only a crater where the building once stood.
Si Wong tribes
- Main article: Si Wong tribes
The sandbenders live in different tribes in the Si Wong Desert, one being the Hami Tribe. Sandbenders have adapted well to the arid environment of the desert, and utilize a unique art known as sandbending. They use boat-like vehicles known as sand-sailers to travel across the land, which they power by earthbending a sand tornado to blow wind into the sails. The people of the Si Wong tribes are distrustful of any strangers, and make a habit of stealing from them, most notably Ghashiun and his allies. However, if a sandbender has wronged a foreigner, he or she must show the victim hospitality.
- Main article: Beetle-headed merchants
The beetle-headed merchants were the first people to inhabit the Si Wong Desert. According to legend, the beetle-like headpieces they don date back to a tradition of their ancestors, who disguised themselves as sour beetles in order to avoid being hunted by giant gilacorns which found the beetles unpalatable. They are skillful traders with easygoing personalities, and are able to see potential worth in almost anything. Their camps are spread throughout the desert, and the Misty Palms Oasis serves as their base for trade affairs. Their means of transportation are giant beetles.
- Beetle-headed merchants
- Knowledge Seekers
- Si Wong tribes, including the Hami Tribe
- Wan Shi Tong
- "Si Wong" (
) means "to die" or "death" in Chinese.
- "Death Desert" or "Death Valley" is a famous desert in North America.
- The idea of the magnetic Si Wong Rock which guides the sandbenders' compasses is similar to the Middle Age idea that a magnetic mountain at the North Pole attracted compass needles.
- Si Wong Rock is much like Uluru, the great sandstone rock formation located in central Australia, as they share similar cave features and creation myths.