Ma completed 82 laps overall of Silverstone's Grand Prix circuit for HRT on the first of two days of a young driver test, with his best time a one minute 37.829secs.
Although Ho-Pin Tung tested with Williams in 2003, he was born in Holland, unlike 24-year-old Ma who hails from Shanghai.
Ma, who has previously competed in Formula Renault, A1 Grand Prix, Formula Three, Superleague, and last year was Chinese touring car champion, said: "It was a fantastic feeling to drive a Formula One car for the first time.
"It's not easy to put into words what I felt. Yesterday [Wednesday] I found it hard to sleep and I tried to calm down by thinking that it was just another test.
"But I'm very proud to represent China and be a pioneer for my nation in this sport.
"I'm confident these tests, and the ones that will come in the future, will help motorsport grow in China and will grant more opportunities for everyone."
Team principal Luis Perez Sala believes Ma has a bright future ahead of him.
Perez-Sala said: "It's not easy to drive a Formula One car and he made no mistakes.
"We want to take things one step at a time with him and this test was for Ma to have his first real contact with a Formula One car at every level.
"He did a great job and now we have to continue working so that he can continue to progress in his journey towards Formula One."
HRT were joined by just two other teams on track in Williams and Marussia, with the other nine to put young drivers through their paces later in the year in Abu Dhabi.
Williams' reserve in 22-year-old Finn Valtteri Bottas, who already has considerable experience of an F1 car, was unsurprisingly quickest, completing 120 laps with a top time of 1:31.436secs.
Marussia fielded two drivers, with 21-year-old Briton Max Chilton managing 34 laps in the morning and a best of 1:36.558secs, 0.846secs ahead of Indonesia's 19-year-old Rio Haryanto, who only completed 19 laps in the afternoon.