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Which of the following is better to use? Or it depends on the context of the conversation?

美在旁觀者的眼睛

情人眼里出西施

So just to clarify, I am looking for something generic as close to as possible to the English version. One that can be referred to any objects not just female. I personally do not like this 情人眼里出西施 even if it is used in expression for a female. Because I do not know who was 西施 or I agreed if I had seen her. And it limited to 西施!

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  • The second one. The first is just a horrible direct translation on your phrase. Horrible, as in that it is awkward and grammatically incorrect. Also "旁觀者" means "spectator", which differs in meaning from "beholder".
    – player3236
    Oct 7 '20 at 11:46
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    There is a Cantonese expression: 各花入各眼 (each flower look different in each person's eyes )
    – Tang Ho
    Oct 7 '20 at 11:56
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    西施 is said to be one of the four most beautiful women in Chinese history, so every Chinese know of her, and it feels natural. In English, she is equivalent to Jack, as in "Jack of all trades" or "No work and play makes Jack a dull boy". "I don't know Jack", but I can still use these idioms, even on women. On the other side of the spectrum there is "Tom" of "peeping Tom" notoriety.
    – player3236
    Oct 7 '20 at 16:31
  • @River: It has to be Rome (for the obvious reason). Otherwise it would be city X ( with one human being and one 2x10 ft shred with no running water!
    – EmilyJ
    Oct 9 '20 at 16:32
  • @River: But you do see / know Rome.
    – EmilyJ
    Oct 9 '20 at 16:42
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If using 西施, (as a general / traditional indication of physical beauty), is not comfortable to you, then you can say, 情人眼里出美人 or 美在情人眼.

BTW, 旁觀者 means "bystander", i.e., someone who is an "objective observer", whereas "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" denotes a "subjective assessment / opinion" by an involved beholder.

So, 美在旁觀者的眼睛, (which is unnecessarily verbose and awkward) could be "idiomized" to 美在情人眼.

However, if you are looking for a "generic" phrase that applies to both persons and objects of interest, then perhaps 美在各眼中?which takes away the narrower application to 情人 only.

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    美在各眼中 seemed to fit in my application.
    – EmilyJ
    Oct 9 '20 at 16:25
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If you're looking for a neutral translation you might have to pull back some layers of meaning from the original English.

Wiktionary has an example sentence that translates it:

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
“美的定义是因人而异的。”

This is very literal and somewhat obtuse - people don't talk like this.

You may want to consider terms like:

  • 各有所好 = each has his own likes (and dislikes)
  • 各有所爱 = everyone has things that they love
  • 爱美之心,人皆有之 = it is only human to love beauty

In the right context these terms might be appropriate.

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