Zhang was born in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, on 22 March, 1984. She then moved to the Chinese capital, Beijing, where she attended high school from 1996 to 2002. She later completed her studies at the University of Science and Technology Beijing and obtained a degree in business administration in 2006. Zhang is now working as a fashion model.
Having grown up in an academically oriented family, Zhang has always valued her education and has made many achievements in her studies. Both a scholar and an athlete, Zhang Zilin began training in various types of sports at the tender age of eight. She excels in the Triple Jump and Hurdles and has undergone professional training in the 100 meter Hurdles alongside Olympic Gold Medalist Liu Xiang.
In 2002, Zhang finished high school and commenced her studies at the University of Science and Technology Beijing where she graduated in 2006. As an undergraduate, she competed and won many athletic competitions. In 2005, she won the "Sports Advance Distinction Award" at her university.
Zhang's career in modeling and pageantry started in 2003 where she participated in a beauty pageant organized by New Silk Road Modeling Agency. As a first timer in pageantry, Zhang only managed to land herself in the top 10 due to lack of experience. However, she was later discovered by the executive manager of the agency, Lee Xiao Bai, who declared that Zhang had the potential to become a supermodel. Since then Zhang has graced the runways in major fashion capitals of the world including Paris and Berlin.
In 2006, she was shortlisted as one of the top ten professional supermodels during the Chinese Fashion and Culture Awards. After that she participated in Giorgio Armani's 2007 Autumn/Winter Collection show in Paris and later earned herself the title of "Top Model of the Year" from New Silk Road modeling agency.
Zhang lent her voice for the 2008 Summer Olympics soundtrack and also appeared in the music video for the same song entitled '北京欢迎你' .