Sweet chariot

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Sweet chariot

At the end of the 19th century in Shanghai, a very unconventional horse-drawn carriage appeared.

Usually, the driver sat right behind the horse, but this carriage was different. The driver’s seat was placed behind the passengers, at the very back.

These passengers sat on elaborately decorated leather-covered seats and the carriage floor was covered in plush carpet.

This luxurious coach caught the attention of the people in Shanghai. The shape was unique and the carriage much more expensive than the usual kind.

The carriage was not Chinese, however. It was imported from England.

The first Hansom Cab was built and patented in 1834 by Joseph Hansom, an architect from Leicestershire, England. John Chapman later modified the carriage in 1836 by moving the driver’s seat to the rear.

Back then in Shanghai, there were only a few people who could afford to ride in an expensive Hansom Cab.

The Chinese called those privileged few daehyong - hyong came from the mispronunciation of the carriage’s English maker’s name, Hansom, and dae meant big.

Thus the word daehyong came to mean the “big brother” who heads gangs that control dark neighborhoods, amasses great wealth and wields considerable power in the area. The desire to become someone like that fueled respect and fear for big brothers.

This seems to be the psychology in China: to fear and envy someone with authority commensurate with power.

This is especially true for the Olympic Games to be held in Beijing at a cost of about $40 billion.

Everything about the Games in Beijing is extra-large and luxurious.

The Games are showing us a glimpse of China’s will to become the center of the world.

China aspired to become a big brother, and is now settling into the most important seat in the carriage as a big brother.

We note how the determination of the big brother is reflected in the grand scale of the Games.

The writer is deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Yoo Kwang-jong [kjyoo@joongang.co.kr]

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