Feature: Paralympic mascot Shuey Rhon Rhon brings joy and friendship
By Bai Xu, Yue Dongxing

BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Recently, if one browses trends in China, one may find that Shuey Rhon Rhon is always high on the list.

Shuey Rhon Rhon, the mascot of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, is a chubby red lantern child with white snow blocks on its head.

Like its Olympic counterpart Bing Dwen Dwen, Shuey Rhon Rhon has won the hearts of both athletes and spectators ever since the start of the Paralympics.

Canadian ice hockey player Billy Bridges couldn't stop posting images of Shuey Rhon Rhon souvenirs on social media. "Shuey Rhon Rhon is so cute," he said. "[I am] absolutely obsessed with all the Shuey Rhon Rhon merch."

Alpine skier Jakub Krako of Slovakia bought a Shuey Rhon Rhon toy at the Paralympic Village in Beijing's northern suburb of Yanqing. For him, the mascot is not only a symbol of the Paralympic Winter Games, but also a bridge connecting cultures.

"I want to bring it back to my friends and family so that they can also understand Chinese culture," said Krako.

Austrian skier Johannes Aigner bought four. The Beijing 2022 double medalist said he had learned some Chinese culture at school and was interested in learning more with the mascot. "I will definitely give one to my parents and my family to share the happiness," said Aigner.

Shuey Rhon Rhon has also set off a craze inside Beijing 2022's closed loop, with a reporter from Japan's Asahi Shimbun queuing for one and a half hours to get his hands on a Shuey Rhon Rhon toy at the shop of the Paralympic media center.

There are many Chinese elements embedded in the mascot. Images of doves and the Temple of Heaven are on display continuously around the crown, while the snow blocks on the lantern indicate the good wishes of a fruitful year.

Jiang Yufan, Shuey Rhon Rhon's designer, said the inspiration came from traditional Chinese lanterns which are hung in the streets during Chinese New Year and other important festivals.

The 23-year-old graduate from Jilin University of the Arts submitted her idea to the Beijing 2022 organizing committee in 2018. After the initial idea was whittled down from thousands of entries to ten finalists, Jiang and her team drafted more than 30 versions of the lantern child - some with legs and some even having antlers. The team even experimented by throwing snowballs to a wall to observe the shape of snow blocks.

Shuey Rhon Rhon stood out from these versions.

The cute lantern child can be seen everywhere at the Paralympics, and some carry special meanings, with the Shuey Rhon Rhon gear worn by ushers at the opening ceremony being made by 24 volunteers with disabilities. "I will be very happy if Shuey Rhon Rhon can bring people strength," said Jiang.

In fact, the lantern child is more than just a mascot.

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry, posted a video on Twitter showing Shuey Rhon Rhon giving hugs to American ice hockey players after the game. "A heart-warming surprise for the U.S. ice hockey team after the match," she wrote.

"Hopefully Shuey Rhon Rhon, like Bing Dwen Dwen, can become a messenger to deliver the love of Chinese for the Olympics and Paralympics to the world, as well as true stories of China," a netizen named Yanming commented on Weibo.