An entourage of artists was aboard the missing Flight 370 after completing an exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, an organiser said yesterday.
A group of 29, comprising 19 painters and calligraphers, six relatives and four staff from the Chinese organiser's company, were on the flight.
Six other artists who also exhibited works were due to take another flight to Shanghai, Liao Weicheng, a director of Art Peninsular Enterprise, told the Sunday Morning Post by phone.
The artists were in Kuala Lumpur for the exhibition that ran from Tuesday to Thursday organised jointly by Art Peninsular Enterprise in Malaysia and ibicn.com on the mainland. The artists came from across the country including Beijing, Shanghai, Shandong , Jiangsu , Sichuan and Xinjiang .
"I saw them off at the airport at about 9.30pm after helping them check in. And then I called Hou Bo, the head of the Chinese organisers, when I got home just after midnight and he said everything was fine," Liao said.
Hou, 33, was listed on the passenger manifest for Flight 370 that was released by Malaysia Airlines.
"I felt so sad after hearing the news. The weather was OK. Nobody could have predicted this," Liao said.
There were conflicting reports about the flight and passengers throughout yesterday, even from officials and state media in Malaysia, Vietnam and China. The online news outlet affiliated with People's Daily reported that "more than a dozen" members of a national calligraphy association who joined the Kuala Lumpur exhibition were on board.
Liao said it was the fourth event Art Peninsular Enterprise had staged with the Chinese company.
The group of artists includes Meng Gaosheng , deputy chairman of the China Calligraphers' Association, and Memetjan Abra, a Uygur painter from Xinjiang.
"Abra was the first Uygur artist we have represented in this kind of exhibition, and we had to prepare halal food for him," Liao said.
"He was also one of the youngest artists in the group," he added.
"He was quiet and friendly and gave us one of his works as a gift."
The oldest artist in the group was 76-year-old Liu Rusheng from Nanjing , Jiangsu province. Liu's name was on the passenger list. Liao said Liu was accompanied by his wife.
Caixin Online said a pregnant woman and several Buddhists were believed to be on board.
The Buddhists were in Kuala Lumpur to attend a religious event on March 2 that was attended by more than 30,000 followers from around the world, including more than 100 from China, Caixin said.