In almost every chapter Sun Tzu used some form of enumeration of things or concepts, in several chapters even two. For example,
- the seven military considerations in chapter 1,
- the ﬁve essentials for victory in chapter 3,
- the nine varieties of ground in chapter 11,
There are 15 enumerations in total in Sun Tzu's book, look in the details section for snippets from mind maps and
for more explanation.
In addition to explicit enumerations, there is mention of numbered things, such as five colors (chapter 5), without saying what they are.
A very different kind of grouping that occurs in Sun Tzu's book are groups of two, used as pairs of opposites. We think that the special meaning and frequent use of those pairs warrants description as a separate pattern.
The enumerations found in Sun Tzu's book are shown in the following mind map, together with a number of the
where they occur. As you can see, there are enumerations in all chapters, except 2 and 7. In chapter 5 and 6 Sun
mentions numbered items without enumerating them explicitly.
This shows that Sun Tzu found it useful to clarify his reasoning by summing up circumstances or subjects of his rules.
Here is an overview of the enumerations we found:
Chapter 1: 5 Constant Factors
(1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline.
Chapter 1: 7 Deliberations
Chapter 3: 3 Ways of Misfortune
Chapter 3: 5 Essentials for Victory
Chapter 4: 5 Factors for Military Method
The original English text reads like this:
17. In respect of military method, we have, firstly, Measurement; secondly, Estimation of quantity; thirdly, Calculation; fourthly, Balancing of chances; fifthly, Victory. 18. Measurement owes its existence to Earth; Estimation of quantity to Measurement; Calculation to Estimation of quantity; Balancing of chances to Calculation; and Victory to Balancing of chances.
This enumeration posed an interesting problem of putting it in a mind map. Most translations refer to the previous enumerated item backwards: Analysis is determined by Earth, and so on.
However, this does not look good in a mind map and more careful study of the chinese text leads us to believe that forward reference is much better and more true to the original text.
Therefore we constructed the texts as: Earth determines Analaysis, and so on. This is reflected in the Chinese mind map detail below. It also shows that mind maps can be helpful in finding the right translation.
To make the enumeration more clear, we could represent the text also like this:
Chapter 5: From Five to Infinity
This is an example of grouping where the items are not explicitly given, presumably because they are considered well known. From the commentary of the old Chinese scholars we know now what they are and also Giles mentioned them by name in his translation.
The items in these groups are:
- Five musical notes: the classical Chinese pentatonic scale.
- Five primary colors: blue, yellow, red, white, and black.
- Five cardinal tastes: sour, acrid, salt, sweet, bitter.
Sun Tzu is explaining here that there are an infinite number of strategies that can be used for warfare, even if the components of such a strategy are limited.
Chapter 6: 5 Elements and Seasons
The last paragraph in this chapter starts with:
- The five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, earth) are not always equally predominant;
- The four seasons make way for each other in turn.
In the remaining chapters, there are also enumerations which we only list here for completeness:
- Chapter 8: 5 Faults of a Commander
- Chapter 9: 4 Useful branches of Military Knowlede
- Chapter 10: 6 Kinds of Terrain
- Chapter 10: 6 Calamities
Chapter 11: 9 Varieties of Ground
- Chapter 12: 5 Ways of Attacking with Fire
- Chapter 12: 5 Possible Developments when Attacking with Fire
- Chapter 13: 5 Types of Spies
As this list shows, Sun Tzu has a preference for the number five, which according to the translator Peter Harris, caused by its prevalence in early Chinese culture, see his comment at the end of chapter 4 of his Sun Tzu translation.