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Aerosols are an important factor affecting air quality. As the largest source of dust aerosol of East Asia, the Taklimakan Desert in Northwest China witnesses frequent dust storm events, which bring about significant impacts on the downstream air quality. However, the scope and timing of the impacts of Taklimakan dust events on Chinese urban air quality have not yet been fully investigated. In this paper, based on multi-source dust data including ground observations, satellite monitoring, and reanalysis products, as well as air quality index (AQI) and the mass concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 at 367 urban stations in China for 2015, we examined the temporal and spatial characteristics of the impacts of the Taklimakan dust events on downstream urban air quality in China. The results show that the Taklimakan dust events severely affected the air quality of most cities in Northwest China including eastern Xinjiang, Hexi Corridor and Guanzhong Basin, and even northern Southwest China, leading to significant increases in mass concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 in these cities correlating with the occurrence of dust events. The mass concentrations of PM10 on dust days increased by 11–173% compared with the non-dust days, while the mass concentration of PM2.5 increased by 21–172%. The increments of the mass concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 on dust days decreased as the distances increased between the cities and the Taklimakan Desert. The influence of the Taklimakan dust events on the air quality in the downstream cities usually persisted for up to four days. The mass concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 increased successively and the impact duration shortened gradually with increasing distances to the source area as a strong dust storm progressed toward the southeast from the Taklimakan Desert. The peaks of the PM10 concentrations in the downstream cities of eastern Xinjiang, the Hexi Corridor and the Guanzhong Basin occurred on the second, third and fourth days, respectively, after the initiation of the Taklimakan dust storm.