BEIJING, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Samantha Guess, 9, from Pittsburgh, U.S. always wanted to know what her middle name "Meili" meant. One day, her father sat her down and told her that it meant "beautiful," and she was given it by an orphanage in the Chinese city of Nanjing.
Now, along with dozens of other adopted children, all with black hair and dark almond eyes, Samantha has returned to the land of her birth to discover more about the country.
Many of the kids have Chinese middle names. Often, before they were adopted by their American families, they were given names based on where they were found.
Grace Byrne, 11, from Austin, Texas, was given the name "Jing" when she lived at the orphanage because she was from Jingdezhen, known as China's "Porcelain Capital."
The kids visited the Forbidden City, walked the Great Wall, visited the Siheyuan courtyard houses in Beijing's hutongs and took class in traditional culture, including calligraphy.
In the following days, they will also go to the orphanages from where they were adopted, review adoption dossiers and for some, try to find their birth parents.
The sponsor, China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, wants the adopted children to explore their heritage during the trip, which is called "Home in the World, Roots in China."
Few of the kids can speak Chinese, let alone write characters, but they are still keen to know more about the country.
Samantha bought a fan which shows the Four Great Beauties of ancient China and she said she was looking forward to seeing pandas the most.
Lynette Coil, a mother of two adopted Chinese girls, said she wanted her children to see a changing China.
"China has changed so much since we came in 2003 and 2006 for the adoptions. It is so amazing, the buildings, the cars, China changes everyday!"
To let her children better understand the country, she and her husband also insisted on taking the high-speed rail to Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province.
Since 2006, more than 4,000 adopted children have been invited back to China, a large portion of which were adopted by American families.
At the opening ceremony of the event, Li Liguo, minister of civil affairs, thanked the parents and expressed his hope that the adopted children can become the envoys for cultural exchanges between China and the United States.
China remains the United States' most accessible source of adoptions from overseas.
Don Guess, Samantha's father and a retired respiratory therapist, said he and his wife chose to adopt a Chinese kid because of the stable adoption process in here.
According to Don, the whole process took less than two years, after the application in May 2005, U.S. government agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, began to review his qualifications and eligibility.
"The whole adoption process is just like conceiving a baby ourselves. Before we met our little girl, we never knew what the child was like, but when we saw her in 2007, she was like a gift to us," he said.
Don added Samantha had some health issues but she recovered soon enough.
Her parents did not arrange Chinese cultural classes for Samantha in particular, but in the community where they live, there are many families like them. Don said during Spring Festival, they gather together, watch a dragon dance, eat Chinese food and enjoy the celebration.
"We would like her to have fun based on her interests, and she likes playing the piano, the flute and swimming," said Don.
When Samantha was four, Don and his wife decided to tell her about her past.
"Her classmates would ask, and if we don't tell her, she will figure it out anyway, considering she was in a family that does not look like her."
"We give her every opportunity and every resource we have to let her find herself. She can be anyone she wants to be, even if she wants to come to China and find her birth mother some day," said Don.