In early December, Dou Jingtong posted a photo of her palm on social media. Six rows of words were densely written on the lines of the palm with a black water-based pen. Anyone with a discerning eye will recognize that these were the lyrics of Eason Chan’s “Eyes Wide Open”. That day, Dou Jingtong performed this song on stage at the Clockenflap Music Festival in Hong Kong. She was afraid that she would forget the lyrics, so she wrote a cheat sheet in the palm of her hand. “Although, I still sang it wrong,” she confessed. “Enjoyment is the most important thing.” Original singer Eason Chan replied to her in the comment area.
It is indeed enjoyable. In 2023, Dou Jingtong participated in four music festival performances. This was her return to the stage of offline music performances after four years. Four years ago, she was 22 years old. She preferred to shut herself in the recording studio instead of being in the spotlight on stage. For Dou Jingtong at that time, creation and performance were two different things. When writing songs, she only needs to focus on the music itself. The only person she needs to get along with in the studio is herself. Face yourself, explore yourself, and learn to be more honest about yourself. So she gave herself over to music. Unlike many people, Dou Jingtong feels that she is not writing songs, but the music itself is leading her forward. She rarely starts out with an idea of what she’s going to do with a song; most often, the notes take on a life of their own, and she lets them flow freely, like her own self.
“You just do it, and as you do it more and more, ideas start to come up and you start to make changes. As you do it, you feel like, I want this, and then I want that.” Hitting the last note and closing the studio door doesn’t mean the music ends here. “Music itself has its own fermentation time,” Dou Jingtong has a patience that her age does not possess. She is like a winemaker in the depths of time, growing together with the malt, and then returning the mellow aroma drop by drop to time. “There are some songs that you immediately think I like when you first hear them, and you will be attracted to them immediately; there are some songs that you may not notice at all when you listen to them for the first time, but when you listen to them after a while, you feel why they are so good.” This is the magic of time, and Dou Jingtong never tires of it.
“Chemistry,” is how she defines the feeling. Creation is nothing more than looking for the most wonderful chemical reaction. She once thought that performing was another matter: the song was already there, and all that was left to do was present it. But it’s not just that. Returning to offline performances, Dou Jingtong found that she had found a brand new chemical reaction. Instantly, it exploded like fireworks, but the dizzying ecstasy lingered in her pupils like an afterimage for a long time. She suddenly realized that performance was another kind of creation, an art that was improvised, on the spot, and more uncertain. The creator is no longer just herself, the band, the stage, the lights, the passing clouds, the changing weather, the state of the musicians beating the drums, the strength of the audience’s shouts… everything in the world together constitutes a work, which is unpredictable and unreproducible. This is a once in a lifetime experience.
This is a brand new creation, giving birth to a brand new Dou Jingtong. When the music sounds and the spotlight falls, few people can imagine how much energy there is behind her gentle and clear voice. Dou Jingtong, who holds the microphone in her hand, has a God-given charisma. Wherever she is, she can isolate a world that belongs only to her. There is no more space, no more time, just her voice, just pure music itself. As soon as the music starts playing, Dou Jingtong becomes the king of the stage. Not to make people surrender, but to lead the audience into a world that only she knows. Even if you do nothing and just listen with breathless concentration, you will be brought into the dream created by Dou Jingtong.
Dou Jingtong will also be nervous. Afraid of singing wrong, afraid of unfamiliarity, afraid of unknown, afraid of uncertainty. But she began to try to “open herself up.” Filming Her Way of Survival was Dou Jingtong’s first attempt at filming a drama. The character she plays, Liu Yan, first started practicing kickboxing in a sports school. After knowing that she was going to take this role, Dou Jingtong deliberately started doing boxing training. During the intensive training, she had to practice for three days and one day off, and she continued to practice intermittently for a year. In addition to free fighting, Dou Jingtong also learned cooking for the role. Her Way of Survival is a food drama. Dou Jingtong learned cooking from food consultant Liu Peng and went to his studio to study it. Before filming this drama, Dou Jingtong never thought that one day he would be filming a drama, let alone learn to cook and fight in the drama.
“Acting will force you to step out of your comfort zone, and then force you to explore your inner feelings.” At this point, acting and songwriting have reached an internal agreement for Dou Jingtong , they all allowed her to learn to be vulnerable in front of many people, break herself into pieces and reorganize herself, and then face the world again with a new attitude. In the process of breaking it, her own possibilities are also opened up. The biggest change for Dou Jingtong now is that she is able to accept things happening outside of the default situation, “stay open and see what happens.” The hardest thing is to let go of the past understanding of yourself and throw yourself into uncertainty and the unknown. But once she opened it up, she realized how limited her vision had been in the past. “It’s freer and more fun to do things I wouldn’t have done before, because there aren’t so many rules.”
One of the rules that was broken was, “Only make albums in English.” In April 2023, Dou Jingtong released her first Chinese album Spring Outing. In the past, she believed that she could only write songs in English, and that her English-speaking self and her Chinese-speaking self were two different personalities, and she was not yet ready to reveal her Chinese-speaking self in front of people. “The time has come,” Dou Jingtong’s answer was simple. Spring Outing is like an experiment. When the time comes, the door opens and Dou Jingtong takes the first step, intending to reintroduce himself to the world. If in GSG she was still hiding behind “Green Shy Guy”, covering herself with a thick shell, then Dou Jingtong’s self-exploration was finally unsealed in Spring Outing. The world is no longer a black mist, spring is blooming, and she is ready to have a romantic date with the world. Just like she wrote in “Fireworks”, “Mom, when I grow up, I no longer need everyone to try to please.” In the past, Dou Jingtong stayed deep in her heart because she was afraid of doing something wrong and afraid of other people’s eyes. But true growth is not about shouting at the world that she is no longer afraid, but that she is finally able to fight the world directly.
Dou Jingtong’s adventure is a liberation that only she knows. Silently, she grew up. What is the real Dou Jingtong like? She wants to know the answer to this question more than anyone else. Few people noticed that Dou Jingtong had a pair of sparkling eyes, which would always blink at you when she spoke, like a clear lake. After the V China shoot began, makeup was applied to her face, and the only thing that remained unchanged was her eyes. With silver earrings, you can easily read an aura of freedom from Dou Jingtong. She does not belong to any fixed place, but is always jumping and flowing. Sometimes she is in the city, sometimes in the mountains; sometimes she stays in modern times, and sometimes she belongs to the past.
As dusk fell, the shoot came to an end. Dou Jingtong’s face once again revealed her clear and smooth skin in the darkness. Only then will people realize that she is still a gentle but determined girl. That kind of power comes from deep within her heart, and she will talk and hum songs to herself alone during the breaks in filming. Silver scaffolding and snow-white curtains, none of these can stop Dou Jingtong from building her own world. What she has to do is find her true place in this world. The more you try, the clearer the position becomes. In Spring Outing, she shuttles and dances in the streets and alleys. This is Dou Jingtong’s latest emotional outlet. She envied people who could dance, as she liked to dance herself since she was a child. In her opinion, music and dance are both ways of self-expression, but one uses language, and the other uses body, joints and rhythm. Same goes for boxing. After trying free fighting, Dou Jingtong also wants to try some pure boxing, let sweat and strength become her outlet, and find a new balance in her life.
So, the adventure begins. Start from the inner world and have a grand date with the world. Five years ago, she and her friends went to Havana, Cuba. At 11 o’clock in the evening, her mobile phone had no Internet connection and could not contact the landlord. She had to stop a taxi and ask around, and was finally taken to a strange place by the driver. “Let’s go.” Dou Jingtong just stayed in a stranger’s home in a foreign country. One day, she went to the beach, laid on the beach with her friends, and fell asleep without sunscreen. After waking up, they looked at each other with “very severe sunburn, almost turned into a piece of charcoal”. She would never forget this adventure, without any plan, like jumping down a rabbit hole on the other side of the world. Today, five years later, Dou Jingtong still yearns for this kind of roaming in the city. She looks forward to the day when she can go to a place that no one knows with her good friends or alone, without making a guide, wandering around. The purpose is to leave your own traces in the corner of the world. Just like the Spanish writer Bolaño wrote in “2666”: “The adventure never ends, and your eyes are always looking for me.”
This article is from the cover story of the January 2024 issue of V China
Syndication Director: Tony CG Wang
Photography: Zeng Wu
Executive styling: 8LACKB big black
Styling: Evan Feng
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Written by: Li Hong
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