The Henan Airlines plane carrying 91 passengers and crew crashed in Heilongjiang province’s Yichun city, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
It said 47 other passengers were rescued and taken to hospital.
China Central Television (CCTV) quoted Sun Bangnan, deputy director of the Heilonjiang Public Security Department, as saying that 42 bodies had been recovered and that 49 people had been rescued.
Wang Xuemei, vice mayor of Yichun, told CCTV that three of them were in a critical condition but gave no details.
The plane, which Xinhua said was a Brazilian-made Embraer E-190 jet, had taken off from Harbin shortly before 9pm local time and crashed in heavy fog during landing at the Lindu airport more than an hour later.
An official at the Yichun No 1 People’s Hospital said 30 people had been brought there, with most suffering broken bones.
A man at the Yichun Rehabilitation Hospital, which has burn specialists on site, said 10 survivors were transferred there with burn injuries.
Another eight survivors were at the Yichun Forestry Hospital, a duty officer said.
There were five children and five crew on board, Xinhua cited an official as saying. It was not known how many of them survived.