Li Yanxia was found guilty at Wu’an Court in Hebei province on Wednesday of extortion, fraud, forgery and disturbing social order.
The former orphanage owner, who was once nicknamed “Love Mother”, was also fined 2.67m yuan (£311,000; $388,000).
The court found that Li Yanxia – also known as Li Lijuan – had “abused the orphanage’s influence”.
Many on social media in China have condemned her actions, calling her a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
“I once called her Love Mother,” said another user.