On 1 September 1618 the first small Russian expedition of twelve men reached Peking, where it stayed just four days. The group consisted of seven government servicemen (a kind of feudal hereditary military status), four Cossacks, and Ivan Petlin, the one literate amongst them, who was a government clerk and interpreter, probably speaking some Mongol dialect as well as Russian. Literacy was rare in Muscovy and especially so in Siberia, so Petlin was by way of being an intellectual of the time. On his return to Moscow in 1619 he produced a detailed account of all he saw. The size and grandeur of the Chinese towns much impressed him, above all Peking itself, which he described as a very great city, white as snow, around which it took four days to travel.