After the Mongol invasion of 1246, the city of Dali, situated in the Himalayan foothills of what is now northern Yunnan, experienced an unprecedented level of colonization and settlement. Under Yuan (Mongol) and Ming (Chinese) rule, local elites sought access to power using the tools of the imperial system. My thesis will examine one of these tools, literacy in Classical Chinese, the language of government and elite culture throughout the empire. In this dissertation, I will use gazetteers, commemorative stone inscriptions, and local archives to identify the institutions that mediated indigenous elites' access to political power in Dali, including Chinese-language schools and imperial examinations. I will situate these institutions within Dali society and delineate the networks of literati that formed around them. I will further examine the literary production of this community, including processes of compilation, production, and circulation of texts. Collaborative works like gazetteers, a Chinese genre of local history-writing that typically served the purposes of the local elite lineages, were appropriated by colonized elites as they become more integrated with the Chinese literary world. The literati community created through these educational and cultural practices, however, also developed a new "Bai" identity through these same historical texts. Through this study of communal literary practices and textual production, my dissertation will explore the ways indigenous elites developed new strategies and identities in changing political conditions. My research draws together scholarship of the Chinese imperial frontier and studies of Chinese book history and print cultures to shed new light on both questions. This case-study of a society colonized by a non-European, pre-modern imperial power will also expand the study of colonialism as a historical phenomenon.