||This thesis aims at exploring the concept of “literary thought” by taking two analytical approaches to Hu Yinglin(1551-1602)’s literary works: a literature-oriented approach and a thought-oriented approach. The first approach, the literature-oriented one, follows the prevailing scholarship by taking “literature” as the analytical focus. Specifically, this thesis will explore four areas of Hu Yinglin’s works: theories on poetry, wenzhang, xiaoshuo, and xiqu. The second approach, the thought-oriented one, treats literary thought as part of the intellectual history. This thesis argues that the split of the shi class in the Ming dynasty led to the independence of literature and brought new meaning to erudition (boxue). The case of Hu Yinglin allows us to gain a clearer view of this intellectual transition of mid- and late-Ming. The relative independence of literature is born out by two things: first, Hu Yinglin’s poetics were free from the influence of philosophy, while his contemporaries of the Gong’an and Jingling Schools were deeply influenced by Wang Yangming(1472-1529)’s philosophy. Secondly, Hu’s undistinguished views of Confucian orthodoxy (dao tong) also show that literature had gained a status independent from Confucianism. The new meaning of erudition is expressed in Hu’s views on the relationship between wenzhang and xuewen. According to Hu, wenzhang could help in one’s understanding of xuewen, while xuewen could enrich the content of wenzhang. Therefore, he often treated poetry and articles as part of literature, and studied novels and dramas with the same seriousness that was customarily accorded to traditional xuewen. After the split of the shi class, the Confucian shi inherited Neo-Confucianism while the literary shi inherited the common knowledge descending from history that had very limited connection to Confucian orthodoxy. Hu Yinglin and his predecessors, such as Yang Shen(1488-1559) and Wang Shizhen(1526-1590), were known for their erudition in evidential scholarship and knowledge inheritance. Although they were often excluded from traditional intellectual history that emphasizes “Esteeming the Virtuous Nature” (zun de xing) and “Following the Path of Inquiry”(dao wen xue), they deserve serious study for their impact on the society and should be treated as an indispensable part of the Ming intellectual history.