Adopted Chinese-American Woman Searches for Birth Parents in Shanghai

Adopted Chinese-American Woman Searches for Birth Parents in Shanghai
Jan 06, 2016 By

Editor’s Note: There are more Chinese adopted children in the United States than children from any other nation. The Paper recently published the story of a Chinese-American adoptee named Marinna who hopes to reconnect with her birth parents in Shanghai. Marinna traveled to Shanghai to try to retrace her past, and hopes to have the opportunity to connect with her biological parents someday.

When 20 year old Marinna and her parents returned to the Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute from the United States, memories came back to her like an old film reel.

Marianna’s American mother had recently sent an email to the institute, saying that she had adopted a child from there 18 years ago. The American woman said that her daughter was now grown up, and wanted to meet her Chinese parents. The family planned to travel to China and spend two days in Shanghai. The woman hoped to make her daughter’s wish come true and asked the institute to help her out.

Journey from Shanghai to Texas

On April 17, 1995, a three day old baby girl was abandoned in a public bathroom near Shanghai Zhabei District Central Hospital. No one knew where her parents are, and no one knew how long she had been left alone in the cold. Luckily, hospital staff found her, and brought her to the local police station.

The baby girl was sent to the Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute by the local police and spent the first two and half years of her life there. She had no identity markers as an infant, so the staff did not know her name. The orphanage staff named her Tang Yi, meaning fresh.

In 1997, an American couple decided to adopt two and a half year old Tang Yi and bring her back to the United States. The couple renamed the toddler Marinna. “When I saw the photos of Marinna, I always felt like she was speaking to me with her eyes, as if she was asking me to become her mom,” said Brenda, Marianna’s adoptive mother.

“Marinna had short hair, was very small, and a little shy,” said Bruce, her adoptive father. The family decorated the toddler’s new room with dolls and toys, and hung paintings on the wall.

In the beginning, Marianna was a little scared of Bruce. “She had probably never seen a bearded white man before. I saw that she had been crying and tried to pick her up. She fought me and struggled in my hands, kicking and crying until the staff came to hold her. The staff member had to slip her a piece of chocolate to calm her down,” said Bruce.

Brenda and Bruce took Marianna back to the US to their home in Denton, a town in northern Texas. The couple already had two children. Marianna now had parents, a brother, and a sister. A few years later, Bruce and Brenda traveled to Hefei to adopt a Chinese boy, so she soon had a brother as well.

“Why am I not in China?” “How did I end up here?” “Why don’t I have a big nose like Daddy?” As Marinna grew up, she had a lot of questions for her adoptive parents. When she grew older, she decided that she wanted to return to China to find her biological parents. However, she knew nothing about them.

The family of six decided to travel to China and stay for two days in Shanghai after the New Year. Brenda hoped that she could take the opportunity to make her daughter’s long-time wish come true.

Searching for Clues

On January 1, Marianna was interviewed by a Chinese reporter at a hotel on Shanghai’s Nanjing Road. Despite her fluent American accented English, Marianna looks and dresses like many Chinese girls. She wore a black tracksuit and a pair of running shoes. She had long hair pulled back up into a braid.

Marinna does not speak any Chinese, and does not even know how to write her original Chinese name in characters. She said that she has been very happy in the United States, but has not been able to stop thinking of her parents.

“I would like to know if I have any brothers or sister in China.” She said. Marianna added that she was artistic, and wanted to know if her talent had been passed to her by her biological parents.

Marinna said that her American parents had always respected traditional Chinese culture. She had always been exposed to Chinese culture growing up through family and friends, and had a deep sense of gratitude and respect towards her country.

“I really want to get to know my birth parents,” said Marinna. “When I was growing up, my parents had instilled in me the idea that I should love and be grateful towards my Chinese parents because they gave me life. I came into the world because of them.”

That day, Marinna and her family climbed into a rented van and began tracing her roots. They planned to look for clues in three places: Zhabei District Central Hospital where Marinna was found, the local public security bureau, and the orphanage where she had lived for two and a half years.

However, the family picked the worst time to come visit the three locations- they were all closed for New Year’s Day. They were able to speak to a doctor on emergency room duty at Zhabei District Central Hospital who said that many of the hospital’s buildings had been rebuilt in the past 18 years, and many of the older employees who worked back then are now retired.

When asked about the public toilet that Marinna was found in the doctor said, “I cannot guarantee that public toilets are still the same. So many has changed in 18 years.” The orphanage that Marinna had lived in had been moved to Minhang District, and the original building was now a public service organization. However, the original building looked pretty much the same. “Look, that where she lived!” said Bruce, pointing to the little two-story building.

Marinna looked at the two red doors, and red window frames of the building, and touched its white walls. “I used to live here, in this place,” she said. Marinna said that she was very young at the time and could not remember much, but she felt a familiarity with the building.

Marinna and her family were unable to find any clues about her Chinese family. “I knew that finding my birth parents would not be easy. If I never see them, I want them to know that I am very happy living in the United States. It is wonderful and I have a loving family. My family care for me, encourages me, helps me, and wants me to do my best,” said Marinna. Brenda said that the family will continue to search for Marinna’s birth parents back in the US online, and reach out to public institutions for help.

Large Numbers of Chinese Adopted in the United States

In 1992, China first legalized the adoption of Chinese children by foreign parents. Since then, larger numbers of foreigners, especially Americans, have adopted Chinese children.

206 Chinese children were adopted by American families in 1992. In 2003, the number was as high as 6,859. The US Federal Bureau of Statistics reported that in 10 years, American families adopted 40,326 children. In 1993, 330 Chinese children were adopted by Americans, eighth in foreign adoptions rankings. By 1999, Chinese children were the most popular adoptees for American families. 2005 was the peak year for Chinese adoption, with 7,903 children adopted.

Fudan University social sciences professor Yu Hai believes that American families have a different mindset than Chinese families when it comes to adoption. “When Americans adopt a child, they raise it according to their cultural and religious background,” said Yu.

Yu said that most Chinese families only chose to adopt when they cannot have children of their own. Chinese parents want to have children to have someone to care for them in their old age, but would also like the experience of raising children of their own. In the United States, most families that adopt children already have their own biological children, and the families are often religious.

“They have a compassion attitude towards adoption, and a strong sense of mission. They believe that children, no matter what kind of physical defects they have, should not be abandoned because they are all God’s children,” said Yu. China has a larger population, and therefore has a larger number of abandoned children. It is easy to understand why such a large number of adopted children in the United States are from China.

He stressed that adoption by American families is a good destination for Chinese orphans. Surveys show that Chinese orphans who are adopted in the United States are generally well cared for and receive a good education.

“Of course, there are some children that want to return to China to find their birth parents when they grow up. Birth parents also often want to know what kind of person their children become,” said Yu.

Marinna has posted a personal letter translated on the Chinese internet, and hopes her birth parents will see it.

Hello, my name is Marinna. My Chinese name is Tang Yi. In 1997, when I was two and a half years old, I was adopted from the Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute by a couple from Texas. I will soon be 21 years old and am in my last year of college. In the near future, I will return to China again.

I want my Chinese parents to know that I am very happy. My American parents have taught me to love and be grateful for my Chinese biological parent. After all, they gave me life, and are the reason why I am alive.

My American family has always tried to follow traditional Chinese culture. In my life, I have many Chinese family and friends, and I am filled with deep gratitude and respect for my country.

I often miss my Chinese family and birth parents. I often think that my artistic talents were bestowed on me by my biological parents. I also want to know whether I have siblings, and whether I look like my biological parents.

However, I know very little about my birth parents. I know that they left me near Zhabei District Central Hospital on April 17, 1995 in a warm and safe place. Then, I was taken to the local police station and sent to the Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute. I lived there until I was adopted at two and a half years old.

I know that Shanghai is a large city, and that finding my birth parents will be like finding a needle in a haystack. I will stay in Shanghai for two days at a hotel called JJ-Inns on Nanjing East Road. I will be there in the evening of January 1. My family is registered in the hotel under the last name Eckel.

If I do not have the chance to meet you, I hope to somehow let you know that I am now in the United States, and have a very happy and exciting life. My family loves me, encourages me, helps me, and always wants me to do my best.

Marinna Tang Yi Eckel

Source: The Paper

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Keywords: adopted Chinese children Chinese birth parents


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Jan 08, 2016 02:19 Report Abuse



Left her in the toilet? Classy! Honestly she struck gold with those American parents.

Jan 07, 2016 14:30 Report Abuse



be thankful to "parents". a hopegiving message for every asshole who left his daughter to die in a public washroom.

Jan 06, 2016 21:59 Report Abuse



She probably has no idea how lucky she was. Many abandoned women end up forced into prostitution.

Jan 07, 2016 07:00 Report Abuse



What? A new article? I was looking forward to reading about the guy being released from jail for the 17th time.

Jan 06, 2016 13:06 Report Abuse



Yeah, there's nothing quite like good fiction! :D

Jan 06, 2016 19:12 Report Abuse




Jan 06, 2016 13:04 Report Abuse