In this study we are looking at Sun Tzu, "the Art of War", An ancient Chinese work on strategy and warfare.

This famous book, which is very popular in business circles today, was written about 500 BC. Scientists or translators studying "the Art of War" are in general looking from the perspective of history, military science, philosophy, or linguistics. The background of the authors of this study is quite different: mathematics, computer science, and logic. We think that this new perspective provides new insights, particularly about the logic used by Sun Tzu.

The use of mind maps adds a visual dimension to the text and can therefore provide a substantially new insight as shown by the results: finding logical structures in Sun Tzu's work that we have not seen before in such a systematic way.

Why is the visual dimension important? Consider the well known saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words". Think also of the problem of solving a Sudoku puzzle. Try to imagine solving a Sudoku in your head, without the visual representation of a square divided into 81 little squares in front of you!

"The Art of War" contains 13 chapters, where the first 6 chapters are considered more theoretical and the last 7 chapters are more practical. In our work, we look primarily at the first 6 chapters.

"The Art of War" was translated into English by Lionel Giles in 1910. Although there are many, and better, translations made later, this is still the most used translation because it has no copyright. You can find the text here:, or the text without commentary can be found here:

Famous Quotes

Here is a short list of famous quotes that many people know about, even if they never heard of Sun Tzu and his book "The art of War":

Maybe you noticed that these quotes all concern war and fighting. However, in Sun Tzu's book there is other content that would be worth mentioning in any list of quotes. For example, this poetic text:

There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard. There are not more than five primary colors, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen. There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.

Our interpretation of this text is that there are always unlimited possibilities even with limited means.

To explain how we found this quote, we start from the quote, put it into a mind map form, then we look at the complete mind map of chapter 5, were we found this quote, to arrive finally at the original text.

Then we go back to the details to explain how the mind map are made. This is detailed in the section about the use of mind maps. In this section we show a few mind maps that are intuitively understood, we hope.

The annotated quote rendered as mind map.
In the translation of L. Giles, the five ingredients for infinite possibilities are given. In the original Chinese text, these are omitted, maybe because every Chinese person is supposed to know the five ingredients for each category.

Next we look at how this mind map fits into the larger mind map of chapter 5:

The mind map of chapter 5. Some of the structures are collapsed to get a better overview.

The yellow colored part shows our from five to infinity text. If we look for that part in the original text, we see that it does not stand out:

The original text of chapter 5, as translated by L. Giles.

If you look back to our larger mind map and relate that to the original text, you see that all text is still there, but that structure is added, which makes it easier to see what this chapter contins and is trying to tell us. In the section about how to create the mind maps you will see our method of making them.