Born in 1955, Zhang contracted polio at five and following four operations to remove tumors from her spine, was left paralyzed from the waist down. Zhang was unable to attend school but educated herself to university level. She learnt several foreign languages including English, Japanese, German and Esperanto and has worked as a writer and translator. In 1993, she was awarded a master's degree in Philosophy by Jilin University.
Zhang has published a dual-language book called Beautiful English and has translated several works of western literature. She works together with her husband Wang Zuoliang who is not disabled. Zhang believes the disabled should not lower their sights in the search for love. Zhang profoundly understands the suffering of China's disabled people. As a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, she has called for the improvement of disabled access to buildings and campaigns on the right of disabled people to drive.
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