Feng was born on January 7, 1859 in Hejian County, Zhili (now called Hebei Province). He graduated from Beiyang Military Academy in 1889 and made a name for himself in the Huai Army. From 1896, he assisted Yuan Shikai in army training. He was known as one of the "Three Talents in Beiyang Army", along with Wang Shizhen and Duan Qirui.
After the Wuchang Uprising in 1911, Feng was sent to crackdown on the revolution in Hubei Province and received the title of second-class baron from the Qing government for his successful seizure of Hankou City.
When Yuan Shikai proclaimed himself as the Emperor of Empire of China in 1915, he made Feng a duke. After Yuan Shikai died, Feng became the leader of the Zhili Clique of Warlords and was elected vice president in 1916. On July 6, 1917, Feng took the office of acting President but was forced to step down by Duan Qirui on October 7, 1918.
Feng died of an illness in Beijing on December 28, 1919.