While looking for an appropriate thread to post in, I noticed there was an almost identical one to this.
Long story short I've just been re-watching the marvellous 55 Days at Peking
and was struck by a similarity, if not a partial inspiration for Short Round.
In this film Lynne Sue Moon's character, Teresa, is the eleven-year-old orphan of a US Marine captain father and a Chinese mother. Captain Marshall had promised to take his daughter "home" to Illinois, though he was actually having second thoughts: "They'd treat her like a freak back home." Charlton Heston's character, Major Matt Lewis, agrees: she's "better off with her own kind".
After Marshall dies Teresa's dream is still to go to America. Major Lewis is at first reluctant, but by the end of the film his attitude is transformed and he lifts Teresa onto the back of his horse, implying that he will
take her with him to America.
In Temple of Doom
the reluctance of the leading man to get involved, and his subsequent transformation, occurs at the Indian village. And we know from the expanded universe that Short Round was
taken to America.
While Googling some facts another possible inspiration popped up: the 1951 film, The Steel Helmet
, which I see Crack that whip noted here
some years ago.
In the Korean War, the prisoner of war Sergeant Zack and only survivor of his company is released by an orphaned South-Korean boy called Short Round. The actor playing this Short Round was William Chun, who was 11 years old at the time of The Steel Helmet