Yu Fei'an was born in Beijing while his ancestors came from Penglai, Shandong province. His original name was Zhao and courtesy name Fei'an. His literary names such as Xianren, Wenren, and Laofei. In 1912, he began to study in Beijing Normal College, and served as an art editor at Beijing Morning Post after graduation. During the same period of time, he studied painting from Wang Runxuan, a folk artist. In 1935, he began to work at the Palace Museum of Antiquities (now the Palace Museum), where he copied and studied a large number of paintings among its collection. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, he worked as a researcher in the national art research institution of the China , and was later appointed as the vice-president of Beijing Fine Art Academy. He was a distinguished painter of flowers, trees, birds, and fishes and was equally skilled in calligraphy and seal-carving.