During the late Qing and early Republican period, many literati, holders of lower degrees, remained in their native places for most of their lives, working as teachers or as functionaries in local government. They were actively involved in many local affairs and had considerable influence on local society. They were also personal witnesses of the transformation of China at the turn of nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This paper uses the life of one individual, Luo Shiyang from eastern Guangdong, as a case study for understanding the wider social transformation. It also looks at how the ideas and behavior of local literati might have been affected by the social and cultural changes of the time.