He Pingping, who held the Guinness Book of World Records title for the world's smallest man, has died at the age of 21 in Italy.
Pingping, of Wulanchabu, China, stood just 29 inches tall when he was measured by Guinness in March of 2008. The young man's family in China expressed shock at his sudden death, saying that he'd contacted them from Italy in recent days to say he was homesick:
"We just did not expect this bad news," his sister He Lihua told AFP over the phone from Baotou, a city in the northern region of Inner Mongolia where he lived.Pingping's sister He Lihua said her brother had been filming a show in Italy and showed no signs of ill health before he left on the trip:
"Pingping went to Italy... and he called us every day saying he wasn't eating well and that he missed us."
"Unfortunately we cannot go there and we can only wait for his body to come back," He said, adding that the family would be asking the Italian company behind the television show to pay for the funeral.Guinness World Records released a statement following Pingping's death:
"I had the pleasure of meeting Pingping back in 2008 in Inner Mongolia," said Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday, who was the first to confirm Pingping's status as the world's shortest man. "From the moment I laid on eyes on him I knew he was someone special - he had such a cheeky smile and mischievous personality, you couldn't help but be charmed by him. He brightened up the lives of everyone he met, and was an inspiration to anyone considered different or unusual". Glenday continued 'Pingping showed us that, despite the challenges we face, we can still make the most out of life, and for such a small man, he made a huge impact around the world. Everyone at Guinness World Records is very saddened by the loss of such a wonderful, engaging, fascinating character – he will be greatly missed and we would like to offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends."