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During the Taiping Rebellion, eastern Zhejiang was a key battlefield. Drawing upon fresh data from literati writings, government records, and local gazetteers, this paper explores how different types of local elites in the Ningbo-Shaoxing region acted and how their practices interacted with and gradually changed the local political structure. This paper argues that the Taiping Rebellion was not simply a conflict between rebels on one side, and local elites plus the Qing government on the other. Eastern Zhejiang’s Taiping Rebellion was chiefly a civil war between two types of local elites. The suppression of the rebellion cannot be interpreted solely as the Tongzhi restoration policies of the central government; in fact, victory in eastern Zhejiang resulted from the new activism of the Ningbo elites, who applied various resources to ensure the Qing triumph. Finally, patterns of local dominance changed: an independent and separate sphere of local activism emerged, and economic capital became increasingly important compared to cultural capital as a source of power. All of these factors corroded the foundation of the “Confucian” way of dominance and gave rise to the independent authority of the local elite, which set in motion the political transformation that was to come.