A 9-year-old Kiwi boy who died of an asthma attack in Shanghai was "a happy wee fella" whose death has left his parents utterly devastated.

Taylor Marsters was playing outside with his friends at Wellington College International Shanghai on June 26 when he had a sudden, severe, asthma attack.

Taylor had asthma medication but nothing could be done to save him.

"They took him to hospital but by the time he got there his heart had stopped and they couldn't revive him," family spokesman Wayne Stack said.

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The nine-year-old was the only child of Wayne Marsters, a well-known NZRU coach, and Michelle Kolossy, from Scotland.

Kolossy is in her late 30s and teaches at Wellington College in Shanghai, where Taylor lived with her.

Marsters, 51, is the NZRU's coach development manager for the Central districts. He had held a similar position in Canterbury Rugby Union and is known internationally, having coached the Iranian rugby team.

He also coached the United Arab Emirates national rugby team in Dubai, where he had met Kolossy.

Taylor was born in Dubai "but he considered himself a Kiwi", Stack said. He was here for every Christmas and school holiday. "Christchurch was home for him."

He had been to Jakarta and Shanghai with his mother but had been planning to come back to New Zealand at the end of this year so he could spend more time with his dad, Stack said.

Stack has known Marsters since they attended the same kindy in Westport.

Marsters is "absolutely devastated - he's broken-hearted", Stack said. "He was their only child."

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"He used to stay with us. He's a loveable little kid. He loved sport, he two years in a row got the player of his rugby team. He liked soccer, he played that as well - got the most improved award at his school.

"He was a bit of a poet - liked reciting poetry. Just boy stuff."

"He was a happy wee fella, he was well grounded, and well loved. He had a great life, but it was cut short.

"You don't hear of these things happening - someone dying of asthma at such a young age. It's a travesty, the boy had so much promise. To have your life taken at such a tender age - it's just not fair."

Taylor's body was arriving in New Zealand tonight and would be taken to Christchurch.

An obituary in the Herald said Taylor was the "dearest, darling loved son" of Marsters and Kolossy, and the tupuna tane of his grandfather Papa Tom Temu Marsters, originally from Rarotonga.

"The busiest of little boys, always on the move who was busy playing with his mates. Our bright, shining star who will sparkle forever."

Taylor's funeral will be held at Christ the King Catholic Church, 90 Greers Rd, Christchurch on Monday, July 10.