The prize is dedicated to "a figure who has left a particularly original mark on contemporary cinema", the statement said.
The award will be conferred to Zhang on Sept. 6, before the world premiere screening Out of Competition of his new film Ying (Shadow), a martial arts film about the conflict between two feudal groups in China during the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280 circa AD).
Born in Xi'an in Shaanxi province in 1950, the celebrated director has won the Venice Golden Lion twice: in 1992 with The Story of Qiu Ju -- which also garnered Gong Li a Coppa Volpi prize for Best Actress -- and in 1999 with Not One Less. He also won a Silver Lion in 1991 for Raise the Red Lantern.
"Zhang Yimou is not only one of the most important directors in contemporary cinema, but with his eclectic production, he has represented the evolution of the global language of film, and at the same time, the exceptional growth of Chinese cinema," Venice Film Festival Director Alberto Barbera said in a statement.
"Zhang Yimou has been a pioneer thanks to his capacity to translate authors, stories and the richness of Chinese culture in general into a unique and unmistakable visual style."
Barbera cited the Chinese master's "talent in combining the elegance of form with a universal type of narrative structure" and his "unforgettable debut", Red Sorghum, which was adapted from the writing of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Mo Yan, and which "brought him international recognition as one of the most important directors of the Fifth Generation."
Zhang Yimou is the only director to have won all the most important prizes of the Venice Film Festival in less than 10 years, organizers said.
The festival now is its 75th edition, which runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8.