ABSTRACT Yu yan is a way of argumentation and writing style, and has a history of over two thousand years in China. In the twentieth century, yu yan has developed into a literary genre similar to fable. This article argues that the two sets of Chinese translations of The Canterbury Tales by Sun Yuxiu and Lin Shu provide an important point to examine the shifting understanding of yu yan, and they reflect the Chinese cultural conflicts during the socially transitional period in the early twentieth century. These translations possess important features of a transformed fable and developed yu yan. They are creations as well as translations, to which the translators add their political and social expectations while moralizing. By exploring briefly the definitions of yu yan and fable, and studying the translations of the tales, their source texts, and the translators’ biographies, this article attempts to illustrate that the translators do not regard yu yan and fable as equivalent literary terms, and they put emphasis on the native Chinese literary traditions and cultural values in the process of Chinese literary modernization.

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