A small, two-wheeled cart with a doorless, double-wide bench and a collapsible hood that holds one or two passengers and is drawn by a man running out in front between two shafts, which he uses to pull the cart forward. Rickshaws were used widely throughout Asia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but were eventually superseded by the pedicab (a three-wheeled rickshaw propelled by by a footpedal-driven chain), and later by the motor-driven auto rickshaw (aka tuk tuk).

The name rickshaw itself comes from the Chinese characters for "human-powered cart" (人力車), although the English word "rickshaw" was borrowed from the Japanese pronunciation of those characters, jinrikisha.

The word breaks down as follows:

(jin) = "man, human"
(riki) = "strength, power"
(sha) = "wheeled vehicle"

Although it seems like an ancient type of transportation, the rickshaw was actually invented in Japan in 1869, one year after Japan opened itself up to the West and began to modernize, and the carts soon spread to port cities all over Asia, where they became a steady source of employment for idle young men. Many of these quintessentially "Asian" vehicles were actually built in the United States by the American carriage builder James H. Birch of Burlington, New Jersey.