Born in Hunan, China, Zhang Manchin started her violin lessons at the age of five and entered the Shanghai Conservatory of Music at the age of ten. She switched to the viola and gave her successful debut public performance as a violist at the age of twelve. In the 1988 Portsmouth International String Quartet Competition, Zhang competed as a violist with the Shanghai String Quartet and won the fourth prize. Upon graduating from the Shanghai Conservatory in 1990, Zhang was awarded a full scholarship and moved to the United States to study under Emanuel Vardi at the Manhattan School of Music.
In 1994, Manchin became the youngest and first Asian member ever in the history of the orchestra to join the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO). She was later appointed as the Assistant Principal Violist by the music director Neeme Jarvi. After Manchin moved back to Asia in 2005, she has collaborated with major orchestras to perform viola solo and orchestra works such as the Walton Concerto, Bartok Concerto, Paganini Sonata, Brahms Sonata, “Don Quixote” and Harold in Italy”.
Zhang is now based in Singapore and has been appointed as the Head of Viola Studies at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory since 2005. She is also holding the position as the Principal Violist at the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.