When asked about her favorite piece of Chinese literature, Apolish Educational Consultant, Leah Schweller, immediately said, “High Mountain and Running River.” In the ancient Chinese text, Bo Ya plays the zither for Zhong Ziqi, who possesses his own skill of listening and appreciating what he hears. The text reads, “Whatever Bo Ya’s intention, Zhong Ziqi never failed to understand.” The story not only touches on the theme of enduring friendship but also the fact that there is a necessary connection between one who possesses a talent and one who appreciates the talent, as appreciation and understanding is a talent in and of itself. When Bo Ya interprets the music he plays, seeking to create a certain type of imagery, Zhong Ziqi intercepts and recognizes those images and emotions entirely. In Chinese tradition, Zhong Ziqi is viewed as a “Zhiyin” (genuine friend) to Bo Ya, meaning that Zhong Ziqi plays an essential role of recognizing Bo Ya’s talent in all its many nuances.
Leah says the theme of “Zhiyin,” the genuine friendship, is what she loves the most about this piece. She says that everyone needs someone to appreciate their unique talent—someone who is willing to listen to the person and able to understand. Otherwise, the talented person has no one with whom they may share their passion.
Like Zhong Ziqi, Leah is a “Zhiyin” of many people. Leah is a “Zhiyin” of writers from different time periods and cultural backgrounds. As a graduate from the University of Virginia with a major in Chinese Language and Literature, she loves Chinese prose, particularly literary pieces by writers publishing the 1930s, such as Mu Shiying. Leah says she loves the flow of those pieces because the literary form of Mu Shiying’s prose is very similar to a syncopated jazz beat. She loves to learn about all aspects of Chinese culture, especially pertaining to subjects like sociology and history, by studying the Chinese language as well as Chinese literature. Leah is also an English Literature lover. Her life has been enriched by Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, William Shakespeare, and John Keats.
Leah is also a “Zhiyin” of composers. She appreciates the great works from classical music composers, especially those of the Romantic period. As a cellist herself, Leah has been in two different orchestras, and she has also performed many solo pieces, such as “The Swan” by Debussy and Bach’s Prelude from Suite No. 1. At the same time, she loves to listen to Russian composers in her free time (especially Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich!).
As an educator, Leah is also a “Zhiyin” of her students. She is an active listener who loves to get to know each one of her students, as understanding is always the foundation for successful collaboration. Before joining Apolish, Leah worked at the University of Macau for one summer, where she taught an English language course to international students who were tentatively accepted to the university. She designed creative class activities, such as reading and visual learning exercises, to help students improve their spoken English in a fun and supportive environment. She also conducted one-on-one interviews with her students in order to work closely with them on specific aspects of the English language. In those interviews, they talked about various topics, including food, travel, and career goals. Leah says those interviews are great ways for her to learn about her students’ unique interests. She did not just help her students become better English speakers; rather, most importantly, she grew to know each one of them as individuals and established enduring connections with them.
It has been a great pleasure for Leah to work as an Educational Consultant now at Apolish. Leah says she enjoys having one-on-one meetings with Chinese international students to understand their fascinating perspectives on their own lives and the world. She also loves getting to know them from their essays. Leah looks forward to becoming a “Zhiyin” for Apolish students in the future, hoping she may identify and appreciate each student’s unique talent just as Zhong Ziqi did for Bo Ya.
This article is written by Susie Li, and revised by Leah Schweller.