Nucleus prosthesis replacement is considered as an ideal solution to low back pain. The purpose of this paper is to predict the suitable material properties and shape for the nucleus prosthesis of Chinese people based on biomechanical analysis using three-dimensional (3D) finite element (FE) method combined with experiments. The results suggest that a pillow-shaped nucleus prosthesis made of the polymer biomaterial with a Young’s modulus of 0.1-100 MPa is qualified to replace the degenerated nucleus. Then under the guidance of the FE predictions, a novel nucleus replacement material of polyvinyl alcohol hydrogel was prepared; the mechanical experiment shows that it has a compressive modulus of 1.0-6.8 MPa over a strain range of 10-60 %. The finite element predictions and experimental results have implications for the nucleus prosthesis designs.