"I can't sleep. I keep asking myself: 'Where will I study in the future? Who will I live with?" she says. Her school collapsed and half of her schoolmates died during the quake.
"Children's mental scars most likely will last for a long time. They may nod and agree when you tell them to be strong, but they are very hurt inside. They have lost their parents, lost everything in a flash," says Shi Kan, of the CAS.
Su Youpo, a post-quake reconstruction specialist, says most quake orphans preferred a special school or institution to being adopted based on his research in Tangshan quake orphans for decades.
"Children who live in foster families always feel uneasy. They think they owe a great deal to their foster parents. When staying in an institution, however, all the children are equal and can support each other," he explains.
Zhou Jie, 39, who lost parents at the age of seven during the Tangshan quake, still remembers living with her aunt and uncle in the south. "In fact, they were very nice to me, though they have three children themselves. But somehow I always felt like an outsider."
"A special institution for these children, preferably in their home province, would help them feel closer to their dead parents and remind them that they are not alone," says Dong Yuguo, who served as president of Yuhong School, a government-run school that sheltered 148 Tangshan quake orphans in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province.
For those who want to adopt quake orphans, Zhang Kan, head of the Institute of Psychology at the CAS, suggests they need more than just passion and financial security.
"A sense of responsibility and parenting skills are crucial to help quake orphans step out of shadows as fostering parents may gradually find it a challenge complicated by the children's unstable mental conditions," he says.