Following her graduation from the Beijing Dance Academy in 1996, Zhang joined the National Ballet of China, dancing many principal roles in classical ballets, including Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, The Red Detachment of Women, La Sylphide, The Nutcracker, Raise the Red Lantern, The new version of Fountain of Tears，The Butterfly Lovers, Etudes, La Bayadere, The Yellow River and among others. She has danced all principal roles in many Balanchine Ballets, and contemporary works such as Rite of Spring.
In 1997, she won the Gold Medal at the 8th Moscow International Ballet Competition. She was invited in 2000 to dance with the Houston Ballet in the United States, performing the leading roles in Romeo and Juliet. In 2001, she was invited for the Gala performance of the 2nd Shanghai International Ballet Competition. In September the same year, she was invited to perform Swan Lake with the Hong Kong Ballet. In May 2002, she was invited as Guest Artist by the Royal New Zealand Ballet for the role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake.