He played a key role in the development of modern manhua in China, and is mostly remembered for his work in Sanmao. In 1924 Zhang lived in extreme poverty and was unable to continue his primary school education. In the fall of 1927 his area was attacked by the Northern Expedition army.
By 1928 at the age of 18 years, with the support of relatives, he was recommended by the teachers to re-enter school for formal a period of formal art education.
In a short time the January 28 Incident occurred in 1932 and his artistic skills became the highest demand. China would use comics in anti-Japanese advertising in publications.
His comic career would officially begin in 1934. In just one year, he would become part of the anti-Japanese comic propaganda team
When he initially created Sanmao in 1935 his main goal was to convey the hardship of the Japanese aggression in China through the eyes of the children, especially orphans.
He wanted to express his concern for the young victims, particularly the real orphans on the streets. Therefore, Sanmao became the symbol for those children. A public trial was held in 1997 in the First Intermediate People"s Court of Shanghai to settle the lawsuit of who owned the rights to the Sanmao character and comics after the death of the author