This is an example sentence in my textbook:


精神 is translated in the dictionary into "spirit, mind, consciousness". Here I believe it must be modifying 需要, which is acting as a noun.

Spiritual need? This translation seems right, but feels weird because nothing about "人际关系" (interpersonal relationships) is "spiritual" to me.

  • 3
    精神 is often applied to things which we don't consider "spiritual" in English. Often 精神 means "spiritual" in opposition to materialistic, practical, etc. So interpersonal relationships are a "spiritual need" because they're not economic/material/etc.
    – Alf
    Commented May 22, 2012 at 13:49
  • 1
    What do you think about translating it as "non-material"? This clarifies that it isn't a physical need like housing, clothing, etc. but also leaves it broad enough that I can understand what the Chinese is getting at. The word "spiritual" is just confusing to me, I'm not even certain what it is supposed to mean in English, and I'm a native speaker.
    – aelephant
    Commented May 22, 2012 at 23:31
  • I am not going to post an answer as you've pretty much got it. Non-material is how I would have it. Commented May 23, 2012 at 2:39

3 Answers 3


"Spiritual needs" is a typical word-to-word translation that is common in texts translated from Chinese but does not fit in the English context. You may consider other words such as "psychological" or "mental".

Similarly, for "物质需要", I think "physical needs" is better than "material needs".


In Chinese when you see "精神" modifying nouns to form phrases such as "精神需要" and "精神文明", it just means the opposite side of their material counterpart such as "物质需要" and "物质文明".

So your translation of "spiritual" is correct, but you need to understand it from a different point of view as I stated above.


how about "needs of cultural goods"?

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