Ho Feng-Shan's father died when Ho was 7 years old. A diligent and hard-working student, he managed to enter the Yali School in the provincial capital of Changsha and later Yale-in-China University. He attended the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in 1929 and received his doctorate in political economics in 1932.
In 1935, Ho started his diplomatic career within the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of China. His first posting was in Turkey. He was appointed First Secretary at the Chinese legation in Vienna in 1937. When Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938, and the legation was turned into a consulate, Ho was assigned the post of Consul-General.
After the Kristallnacht in 1938, the situation became rapidly more difficult for the almost 200,000 Austrian Jews. The only way for Jews to escape from Nazism was to leave Europe. In order to leave, they had to provide proof of emigration, usually a visa from a foreign nation, or a valid boat ticket. This was difficult, however, because at the 1938 Évian Conference 31 countries (out of a total of 32, which included Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) refused to accept Jewish immigrants. The only country willing to accept Jews was the Dominican Republic, which offered to accept up to 100,000 refugees. Acting against the orders of his superior Chen Jie (陳介), the Chinese ambassador to Berlin, Ho started to issue visas to Shanghai, part of which during this time was still under the control of the Republic of China, for humanitarian reasons. Twelve hundred visas were issued by Ho in the first three months of holding office as Consul-General.
At the time it was not necessary to have a visa to enter Shanghai, but the visas allowed the Jews to leave Austria. Many Jewish families left for Shanghai, whence most of them would later leave for Hong Kong and Australia. Ho continued to issue these visas until he was ordered to return to China in May 1940. The exact number of visas given by Ho to Jewish refugees is unknown. It is known that Ho issued the 200th visa in June 1938, and signed the 1906th visa on October 27, 1938. How many Jews were saved through his actions is unknown, but given that Ho issued nearly 2,000 visas only during his first half year at his post, the number may be in the thousands.
After the Communist victory in 1949, Ho followed the Nationalist government to Taiwan. He later served as the ambassador from Republic of China (Taiwan) to other countries, including to Egypt, Mexico, Bolivia, and Colombia. After his retirement in 1973, Ho settled in San Francisco, California, where he wrote his memoirs, My Forty Years as a Diplomat (外交生涯四十年) published in 1990 (English translation 2010).