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Longhong, China (AFP) June 11, 2013
A woman who Chinese officials said was 127 years old -- although international authorities never recognised the claim -- has died, relatives said on Tuesday.
Official documents said that Luo Meizhen was born in 1885, which would make her the oldest person ever to have lived, but she died at the weekend after months of illness, her son Huang Youhe told AFP.
"She was 127 when she died, it wasn't unexpected," her grandson Huang Heyuan said.
Luo's declared birth date means she may have been the oldest person in the world when she died, ahead of Japan's Jiroemon Kimura, who records say is 116.
But Luo's claim met with little recognition internationally because China did not have a reliable birth certification system until decades after she was born.
Scepticism was further fuelled by reports of the youthfulness of her sons, one of whom she was said to have given birth to at the age of 61.
According to Guinness World Records, the oldest person ever to have lived was Jeanne Calment of France, who was 122 years and 164 days when she died in 1997.
Luo's 1885 birth date was quoted on her official residency permit and identity card, both issued in recent decades, and was confirmed by a state-sponsored research institute in 2010.
China's official Xinhua news agency ran reports of her 127th birthday celebrations on its website in October, describing her as China's oldest person.
"She was a kind person but at times had a very bad temper... she had a strong character," Huang Heyuan said.
Luo, who worked as a farmer all her life, and gave birth to five children, is survived by several great-great grandchildren in the remote village of Longhong, in China's southern province of Guangxi.
The village is part of Bama county, a poor region that officials say is home to more than 80 centenarians.
Her relatives gathered in her simply furnished brick house Tuesday to light red incense sticks in remembrance.
Relatives said they had stored her body on a mountain close to their home and were waiting for an auspicious date later this month to bury her.
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