Inspired by the poetry of Nguyen Khuyen, the folk song Tat Nuoc Dau Dinh and the lullaby of Tonkin, the opening scene of The Quintessence of Tonkin spotlights tradtional, rural life in Vietnam.
Local girls sit chatting and laughing near the lotus pond while local boys jest and joke around them, trying to get their attention. Nearby, villagers plant rice in the fields and tend their crops and livestock. Men fish in the river, pulling their silvery catches out of the water onto the banks. A mother gently sings a lullaby to her baby, the sound echoing pure and clear across the village..