Are they truly identical? If so, which is more commonly used and/or considered the default/standard/preferred usage (versus an alternate variant)?

Elsewhere I've found conflicting answers (that they are the same and that they mean slightly different things). The Integrated Chinese Level 2 Part 1, 3rd Edition Lesson 9 uses 人材, which Pleco and Google seem to indicate is the less common variant. That led me to wonder if there was a specific reason they chose it.

My goal is to choose the more useful one to learn and memorize, as well as be aware if they are not fully interchangeable.

  • see other online dictionaries,e。g. bkrs for confirmation, search web for discussion of this topic,人才、人材 有什么区别?get many hits, e.g. 人才一词,越来越时髦,几乎每个企业都在提“以人为本”,都在宣扬“重视人才”....
    – user6065
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 7:09
  • @Bob 《规范》has a footnote on it's entry for 人才 saying: **注意** 不要写作“人材”。 So if you want to follow modern standardizations then you should only use 人才.
    – Mou某
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 3:10
  • @user3306356 if you look at OP's profile, he has no reason to follow《规范》. In general, I don't think it is a good idea to follow a particular standard, unless the purpose is to pass something like HSK, just because the reality of the Chinese language's situation is very messy - many peoples' goal after all is to increase literacy in Chinese, not literacy as prescribed by《规范》or PRC.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 4:35
  • @droooze Sure, I don't disagree with you. But, it certainly might be a sign of the trends to come.
    – Mou某
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 4:45
  • 1
    @droooze By that point it'll all be 网络用语. ; )
    – Mou某
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 4:53

2 Answers 2


They are identical*.

As for which one you should use, that is going to be a personal preference. Here's some points which you may take into consideration when deciding (note that, overall, these points won't support one form over another):

  • The second syllable of 人才 should be viewed as the same as that in 天才 (genius), which is not written as 天材.
  • If viewed out of context, 人才 may be a bit ambiguous. 才 is heavily used as a standard phonetic loan of what otherwise may be written as 纔 (e.g. in 剛纔, just now; a moment ago)
  • 才 is primarily used with the abstract meaning of ability, power (other than in the phonetic loan above); 材 is primarily used with the meaning material, resource, wealth, and secondarily used with the abstract meaning ability.

The most important thing is that you recognise both 人才 and 人材 as being one word.

*According to the 漢語大詞典, the most comprehensive dictionary that gives a general survey of how words are used throughout the entire history of Chinese literature:


  1. 人的才能

    • 漢 王充 《論衡•累害》: “人才高下, 不能鈞同。”
    • 晉 葛洪 《抱樸子•廣譬》: “人才無定珍, 器用無常道。”
    • 《北史•崔亮傳》: “立中正不考人才行業, 空辨氏姓高下。”
    • 唐 劉知幾 《史通•敘事》: “故知人才有殊, 相去若是, 校其優劣, 詎可同年?”
  2. 有才學的人

    • 晉 葛洪 《抱樸子•逸民》: “褒賢貴德, 樂育人才。”
    • 宋 王安石 《上仁宗皇帝言事書》: “則天下之人才, 不勝用矣。”
    • 清 惲敬 《兵部侍郎裘公神道碑銘》: “今上加意人才, 大臣多以公名舉奏, 升內閣侍讀學士。”
    • 呂澂 《中國佛學源流略講》第二講: “ 支謙 到 江 南以後, 北方仍有宣揚佛學的人才。”
  3. 人的容貌

    • 宋 孫光憲 《北夢瑣言》卷十七: “ 楷 人才寢陋, 兼無德行。”
    • 元 無名氏 《漁樵記》第一摺: “有妻是 劉 家女, 人見他生得有幾分人才, 都喚他做 玉天仙 。”
    • 《三國演義》第六五回: “ 馬超 縱騎持槍而出, 獅盔獸帶, 銀甲白袍, 一來結束非凡, 二者人才出眾。”
  4. 指美貌女子

    • 茅盾 《子夜》八: “他常到某某屋頂花園巡閱, 也為的是要物色人才。”


  1. 人的才能

    • 《淮南子•主術訓》: “智不足以為治, 勇不足以為強, 則人材不足任, 明也。”
    • 宋 葉適 《廬州錢公墓誌銘》: “太子熟看, 人材須用方見。 和親久, 材無所施, 更無事, 當遂委靡。”
    • 清 吳敏樹 《書謝御史》序: “今我等人材既弗如, 而時所重者獨官祿耳。”
  2. 有才能的人

    • 《詩•小雅•菁菁者莪》序: “君子能長育人材, 則天下喜樂之矣。”
    • 宋 曾鞏 《請令長貳自舉屬官札子》: “承人主之志, 廣引人材, 進諸朝廷者, 此宰相之事也。”
    • 《明史•太祖紀一》: “今有事四方, 所需者人材, 所用者粟帛。”
    • 清 龔自珍 《己亥雜詩》之一二五: “我勸天公重抖擻, 不拘一格降人材。”
  3. 姿色;容貌

    • 清 李漁 《閑情偶寄•聲容》: “俗云: 三分人材, 七分粧飾。 此為中人以下者言之也。”
    • 《紅樓夢》第二一回: “二年前, 他父親給他娶了個媳婦, 今年才二十歲, 也有幾分人材。”
    • 老舍 《茶館》第三幕: “ 王掌櫃 , 看我給你找來的小寶貝怎樣?人材、歲數、打扮、經驗, 樣樣出色。”

I'd suggest 人才,which is the most common word at least within mainland. I personally never see 人材 being used in this sense. 人材 might be used in traditional character system, but in simplified Chinese it should be 人才 in my opinion. Without looking up dictionaries, I even think 人材 is wrong spelling! This is because nowadays 材 is not used for a person but an object/materials, for example 木材,食材,材料. Well, 才 is usually used for a person, 天才, 人才,etc.

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