Today Russia and China confront one another across the longest national frontiers in the world. But it has not always been so, for the two nations did not even begin to become neighbours until the seventeenth century - a short time in comparison with Britain's relations with France, for instance. How did it all begin? A brief survey of the history of the two peoples to the time of their first major contacts will be the best start for those unfamiliar with the general background. This survey must naturally be extremely simplified: anyone seeking more detailed information should read some of the many convenient short histories of the two countries now available.