The Winding Road Home for a Chinese Adopted Son Searching for His Family
American mother, Chinese adopted son, an orphanage in Luoyang, Henan Province, Chinese volunteers, Dongjiagou Village, a Ningxia doctor and his wife. All these elements combined together is a true story of cross-country search for family. During this process, kindness and love crossed each other many times, changes and passes added up to a “butterfly effect.” Searching for his roots with the American mother’s support.
An e-mail letter from United States was lying in Beijing attorney, Zhang Zhiwei’s inbox. The time was April 28th this year. The sender was an American mother named Julia. She was looking for help from Zhang Zhiwei. Zhang Zhiwei is also a main coordinator for “Baby Come Home,” a non-profit organization that helps parents search for their missing children.
Julia described in her letter that she adopted an eight-year-old Chinese boy from an orphanage in Luoyang in Henan Province in 2000 (actually 2001). She named him Christian. Christian has grown up to be a kind, handsome young man. The family lives a happy and peaceful life together. However, in 2006 when Christian was 14 years old, he asked his mother if he could find his biological family and the village he remembered growing up.
“Sure, why not?” Julia said, “I felt that my son had the right to know his background.”
From that day this American mother started the task of helping her son search for his family. Not understanding Chinese, the most she could do was to go through her Chinese friends to start the search.
The American mother’s first try failed.
Her first try started with the orphanage in Luoyang, but it also stopped there. Julia noticed that in the adoption record, Luoyang Orphanage gave Christian the name “Dang ZiYang,” but they all called him Jiacheng. Also, with regard to the time he entered the orphanage “it seems there was some confusion.”
In the record for “Dang ZiYang” at the orphanage it says on February 27th, 1999, he was sent to the orphanage by Tang-Kung Rd Police Station, West Subdivision of Luoyang City Public Safety Bureau. The record showed that he was found under an overpass bridge in an area full of commercial buildings.
However, the date in the record is somewhat different from what Julia learned. A nanny in the orphanage had told Julia that “Jiacheng” was sent to the orphanage in 1997 or 1998. Julia also saw Christian in a photo taken by an American that had visited the orphanage 1998.
This conflicting information did not help at all. After more than two years of searching without success, Julia felt lost.
A Chinese stamp was included in the letter looking for help.
A turning point happened in April this year. Julia was doing some research on the internet and found the website for “Baby Come Home” – a non-profit organization that helps locate missing children. She immediately sent a letter to ask for help. In the letter to the lawyer, Zhang Zhiwei, Julia included as much Chinese information about Christian as possible.
Most information came from Christian’s recount from his memory during the first six months after his adoption:
Born in – Dongjiagou Village, Province – Shanxi, Name given at birth – Jing Jiacheng, mother’s name – Shao Julian; father’s name – Jing Gaokuan.
Christian remembered both his parents were farmers. His grandmother had taken care of him. The place he slept at home was a cement stove or “kang.” He remembered his grandmother had told him that he had a twin brother, but he was given up for adoption at birth.
He remembered that his father often went to Luoyang to sell grain and food. His old home grew corn and potatoes and had yaks. The local area seemed to face a drought. Some small rivers were dried up. He remembered his family used vinegar in their cooking. He liked to mix vinegar with potatoes in the US. He remembered there was a lot of garlic in the foods too.
He also remembered his mother and grandmother would make noodles and hang them to dry. He believed he has an older brother or a younger brother, but he could not remember their names.
He felt that his father really loved him, but he was not sure if his mother loved him the same because she never talked much to him.
Other stories from Christian included that when he was around 5 years old, his parents sent him to live with another family. His living environment changed to a big city. He was not sure whether he was related to his adoptive parents, and he did not remember why he was sent away. His adoptive parents had another boy who was older than him.
Christian remembers that both his adoptive parents were doctors. They owned a medical clinic (possibly an OBGYN clinic). His adoptive mother delivered many babies. He thought they were much wealthier than his earlier parents. However, Christian did not remember much of the family life with the adoptive family (except the boy was very nice to him). He had tried to run away to go back to the village where he lived, but he was brought back quickly. The next day, his adoptive father took him on a trip by bus. He thought maybe he got on the wrong bus. After about three days, he somehow ended up in Luoyang. Later, he was sent to the orphanage by the police.
Christian remembered being on a bus for three days and then being in Luoyang. In Christian’s young mind the chain of events that happened during this period were scrambled and he did not remember clearly anymore.
Analysis Finding Out The Birthplace
The unmodified and fragmented memory pieces from years ago got passed onto Zhang Zhiwei’s hand. Gradually, he translated them all into Chinese, and last month, this information was picked-up and posted on the “Baby Come Home” website by a volunteer with the screen name “a meter of sunlight.”
“A meter of sunlight” posted the search for family information on the “Baby Come Home” missing children website. There are 10,000 volunteers from around the country and an online group divided by geographic regions.
According to Christian’s memory his family liked to eat vinegar and raw garlic and slept on a heated Kang. However, these customs are common in the northern and mid-western regions in China.
Julia also provided that according to Christian’s memory he thought the village was located in the Shanxi province. However, the Director of Luoyang Orphanage had told her that Christian’s accent sounded more like one from the Henan province. Therefore, they don’t think Christian is from Shanxi, instead it is more likely to be Henan or the surrounding regions.
Very quickly, based on inputs to the website and other volunteers, “A Meter of Sunlight” decided this direction was not presumable because there are too many uncertainties. Christian also remembered that his mother and grandmother made noodles and hung them to dry. A Henan Province volunteer responded that region does not have that custom; moreover before being sent to the orphanage, Christian rode the bus for three days before arriving in Luoyang. It means he is from far away, possibly other provinces.
As for Shaanxi or Shanxi’s Dongjiagou Village, they were both geographically possible, but both locations do not have yak. So these villages were also excluded by the volunteers.
The neighboring Henan Province has cities, yak, often face drought and water shortage and had a Dongjiagou Village. According to the four factors, it seems that the mystery associated with Christian’s story could be solved.
Putting the four factors together, Dongjiagou Village in Qinghai became the very likely location. However, other volunteers suggested that based on the geographic characteristics Ningxia was possible as well.
First Finding of the Relative on Line
While “One Meter of Sunlight” and others were searching based on the geographic characteristics, other volunteers started trying another route earlier this month.
“KuangJu Mother” (volunteer’s screen name) searched on line for the name “Shao JuLian”, and found that a person with this name had published a medical paper in a journal. The article had two authors, and the other author’s name was Jin GaoKe.
This name is very similar to what Christian remembered as his father’s name.
The author’s bio-sketch in the article also shows that Shao JuLian is a doctor in a county in Ningxia Province. Christian remembered that his adoptive parents were both doctors.
The news was passed on to “One Meter of Sunlight.” However, the “Baby Come Home” website does not have a Ningxia online group yet. “One Meter of Sunlight” therefore, passed on the related information to all online groups for help. She asked volunteers at the nearby regions to help find out who the two authors were. A volunteer from “JanJiang” soon responded that he has relatives in that region, and he could help out.
The volunteer’s relatives found that the address for both authors was the same, so the preliminary information suggested that they could be married. Other volunteers also found that there is a Dongjiagou Village near the county of interest. Things were coming together.
The First Phone Call Required Explanation and Patience
From the county hospital the volunteer got Jin GaoKe’s cell phone number. When he called, the person who answered said his name was Jin Gaoke, and his wife was Shao JuLian. However, it surprised “One Meter of Sunlight” that he denied that he had a missing child, and he hung up the phone right away. No one answered the following phone calls.
A doctor from the county hospital proved to the volunteer that Jin Gaoke and his wife had a boy who was lost. However, the volunteers could not understand why the couple rejected talking to the volunteers on the phone. “One Meter of Sunlight” continued writing to Jin GaoKe short letters to explain the story and sent Christian’s pictures from the United States to him. Finally, Jin agreed to talk.
Father-Son Relationship Connected Again from Across the Ocean
However, “One Meter of Sunlight” was surprised again by Jin GaoKe’s first sentence “I am Jiacheng’s biological father.
Jin GaoKe explained that Jiacheng was “chaoshang” (“over the quota” child due to the one child policy) so after his birth he was sent to be raised by Mr. Jin’s younger brother and mother in the village. When the child was 6 years old, Mr. Jin brought him back to the city with him. One day in 1998, he took his son to go back to visit the village, but the child got lost on the way. In Jiacheng’s young memory, he mixed up his uncle as his biological father.
The father said after he was lost, he felt guilty for years, and searched for the child for many years. However, he could not find him. During that period, he was taken by many scams. Therefore, when the volunteer first called, he was very doubtful.
Jin GaoKe identified a birthmark on Jiacheng. “One Meter of Sunlight” contacted Julia in the United States and proved that to be true. The two sides finally decided to reunite.
Jin mailed pictures of Jiacheng’s uncle and grandmother. After “One Meter of Sunlight” emailed them to the United States, Christian recognized his grandmother and uncle. In his letter to the volunteers, Jin Gaoke said that “All your hard work reunited my family and made the dream I have had for 12 years come true. I am an internal medicine doctor, a good husband, but I am not a good father because I did not fulfill my responsibility of being a father.”
Julia also said to the volunteers that she and her family all believe that Christian was lost by accident and not for other reasons. She will be bringing her family to China in August and hope to meet Jiacheng’s biological parents.
For Christian, hometown has never been so close after so many years.