For more than six centuries, a Southeast Chinese trading empire spread around the coastal ports of Southeast Asia. This trading network was built up through common language, social and cultural-religious institutions. Over the past 30 years, this large network has turned back to China, with more than a million temples being rebuilt, especially in the south-east. The restoration of these local and transnational networks is an extremely important phenomenon. Chinaʼs interaction with Southeast Asia is far more complex than simplifying models about the spread of Chinese “soft power” suggest.