He hailed from Donghai 東海 (modern Tancheng 郯城, Shandong) and was an erudite (boshi 博士) at the National University (taixue 太學), as well as Junior Tutor (shaofu 少傅). Hou Cang was a disciple of Xiahou Shichang 夏侯始昌 and was an expert in the Qi 齊version of the Classic Shijing 詩經 "Book of Songs".
Hou Cang wrote the commentaries Qi Houshi gu 齊后氏故 and Qi Houshi zhuan 齊后氏傳, as well as the Houshi shuo 后氏說, a commentary to the Xiaojing 孝經 "Classic of Filial Piety". Another book by him called Houshi qutai ji 后氏曲臺記 was a commentary to the ritual classic Shili 士禮. A lot of famous Confucians are counted among his disciples, especially Xiao Wangzhi 蕭望之, Kuang Heng 匡衡, Dai De 戴德, Dai Sheng 戴聖 and Qing Pu 慶普.