In 1991, 4-year-old Sun Bin was taken by child traffickers from his hometown in Sichuan province and sold to a family thousands of miles away, in Jiangsu province on the country's eastern coast, Chinese state media reported
On Tuesday, Sun was finally reacquainted with his 60-year-old father, Sun Youhong, and a younger sister he had never met. The moment was captured in a moving series of photographs.
"I was happy. I was grateful," the father said. "But I was also bitter."
Child trafficking is still a major business in China, as traffickers seek to profit off a growing demand for healthy babies from potential adoptive parents in China and elsewhere.
Boys, prized because they carry on the family line, are in great demand and fetch higher prices.
Earlier this week, Chinese police said they had rescued 37 newborn babies after busting a trafficking ring that sold the babies for up $13,000 each.
The reunion Tuesday took place at a police station in Chengdu. When a police officer introduced Sun Bin to his father, the 28-year-old dropped to his knees and wept in his father's embrace.
"You're a man. Don't cry," said the elder Sun, according to a report released by the state news agency Xinhua.
Sun Bin was just a toddler when he disappeared at a vegetable market in 1991. Sun Youhong said that he and his wife had dropped everything to search for him.
He said they posted search notices around the area, and Sun Bin's mother traveled to other cities in Sichuan and neighboring provinces.
Sun Bin's mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1996 and died in 2011.
"To find our son had been my wife's biggest wish in life," Sun Youhong told Xinhua earlier this week. "And days before she passed away she was constantly murmuring our son's name."
Sun Bin told Chinese journalists he had always thought he was adopted but he didn't know where his original home was.
He said he had never asked his adoptive parents how he ended up with them.
As he grew older, he said his wish to find his own family had become stronger and stronger. He left a DNA sample with a local police station in Jiangsu in October 2014 and recently received a phone call saying that a match had been found.
The family also received assistance from a Chinese web site called "Baby Come Home," which helps reunite separated relatives.
The elder Sun said he was disappointed to learn that his missing child had been put to work as an electrician when he was still a teenager.
"I would have kept my son in school at the age of 15," he said.
In a phone interview with CNN, the father accused his son's adoptive parents of breaking the law, for accepting a kidnapped child.
"But as long as my son comes back to live with me, I won't press charges against them," he added.
Sun Bin has yet to make a decision of whether he will leave the adoptive coastal town where he was raised. For now he is sleeping for the first time in 24 years in the home of his biological father.