In 1997, a two-year-old boy was abducted by a couple while he was playing in front of his family home in eastern Shandong province
The couple, who were human traffickers, had planned to kidnap a child with the intention of selling him for money and grabbed Guo Xinzhen — also known as Guo Zhen — when they saw him playing alone.
They then went to neighbouring Henan province and sold the boy there, reported BBC.
This week, the now 26-year-old boy was reunited with his parents, Guo Gangtang and Zhang Wenge, who never stopped searching for him
Their reunion, which was held in a police station in Liaocheng, Shandong, was captured on camera.
In photos released by the Ministry of Public Security on Tuesday, 13 July, elder Guo is seen sobbing into his palms while his wife hugs their son, saying, "My baby, my baby, you came back!"
"Now that the child has been found, everything can only be happy from now on," the 51-year-old father said through tears in a video released by state media China Central Television (CCTV).
The emotional and bittersweet reunion has since captured the imagination of the world media.
The father, who travelled over 500,000km across China with banners displaying photos of his two-year-old boy flying from the back of his motorcycle, shared that now their "future is full of happiness"
According to a report in The New York Times, the elder Guo has become something of a folk hero in China after his more than two-decade-long pursuit for his son inspired a 2015 film called Lost and Love.
After hearing the news of Guo's family's reunion, renowned Hong Kong actor Andy Lau, who portrayed Guo in the film, shared that he felt "happy and thrilled", reported South China Morning Post.
"I'd like to say to Brother Guo that I admire your persistence. I also want to salute the police authority for their years of efforts," said Lau, calling on the public to support the police's anti-abduction work.
After his son was abducted in 1997, then 27-year-old Guo quit his job to look for him.
In the months and years that followed, time wasn't kind to the man.
He lost a considerable amount of weight and his hair turned white as he rode his motorcycle carrying banners with his son's photo and information to all mainland provinces and regions except Tibet and Xinjiang.
Guo covered half a million kilometres and used 10 motorcycles during this period.
"Only on the road, I felt I am a father," he had shared in 2015 prior to the film's release, adding, "I have no reason to stop [searching]. And it's impossible for me to stop."
During the journey in search of this son, Guo faced several obstacles and even had to beg after he ended up spending his life savings
He chased every tip-off; some of them led him to accidents that broke his bones.
His 500,000km crusade also saw him battling highway robbers, sleeping under bridges, and begging for money — many of Guo's experiences were included in the film that went on to become a blockbuster.
At the time, Lost and Love ended with the main character not succeeding in finding his lost son.
"Today, Lost and Love finally has a real happy ending," the film's director, Peng Sanyuan, shared.
Meanwhile, police have arrested two suspects linked to the case
One of them was already in jail for another crime when the police identified him as the suspect in the kidnapping case, while his partner was apprehended last month, reported South China Morning Post.
No additional details were released by the authorities about the suspects, who were dating at the time.
Child kidnappings are all too common in China, where an estimated 20,000 children are abducted each year.
Last year, a mother was finally reunited with her son for whom she searched for three decades while helping other parents in her mission: