The fire at the factory in Wenling city broke out Tuesday afternoon and it took about 100 firefighters using 29 fire trucks nearly 3 hours to put out the blaze, Xinhua News Agency reported.
The firefighters managed to rescue more than 20 people but continued into the night looking for survivors. At least 16 people were declared dead and another five more were injured.
The fire burned an area of more than 8,600 square feet, local authorities said.
China Daily reported the owners of the factory were taken into police custody.
The cause of the fire was being investigated. Workplace safety remains a major problem in China despite numerous improvements.