Abstract Support vector machine (SVM) modeling is based on statistical learning theory. It involves a training phase with associated input and target output values. In recent years, the method has become increasingly popular. The main purpose of this study is to evaluate the mapping power of SVM modeling in earthquake triggered landslide-susceptibility mapping for a section of the Jianjiang River watershed using a Geographic Information System (GIS) software. The river was affected by the Wenchuan earthquake of May 12, 2008. Visual interpretation of colored aerial photographs of 1-m resolution and extensive field surveys provided a detailed landslide inventory map containing 3147 landslides related to the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. Elevation, slope angle, slope aspect, distance from seismogenic faults, distance from drainages, and lithology were used as the controlling parameters. For modeling, three groups of positive and negative training samples were used in concert with four different kernel functions. Positive training samples include the centroids of 500 large landslides, those of all 3147 landslides, and 5000 randomly selected points in landslide polygons. Negative training samples include 500, 3147, and 5000 randomly selected points on slopes that remained stable during the Wenchuan earthquake. The four kernel functions are linear, polynomial, radial basis, and sigmoid. In total, 12 cases of landslide susceptibility were mapped. Comparative analyses of landslide-susceptibility probability and area relation curves show that both the polynomial and radial basis functions suitably classified the input data as either landslide positive or negative though the radial basis function was more successful. The 12 generated landslide-susceptibility maps were compared with known landslide centroid locations and landslide polygons to verify the success rate and predictive accuracy of each model. The 12 results were further validated using area-under-curve analysis. Group 3 with 5000 randomly selected points on the landslide polygons, and 5000 randomly selected points along stable slopes gave the best results with a success rate of 79.20% and predictive accuracy of 79.13% under the radial basis function. Of all the results, the sigmoid kernel function was the least skillful when used in concert with the centroid data of all 3147 landslides as positive training samples, and the negative training samples of 3147 randomly selected points in regions of stable slope (success rate=54.95%; predictive accuracy=61.85%). This paper also provides suggestions and reference data for selecting appropriate training samples and kernel function types for earthquake triggered landslide-susceptibility mapping using SVM modeling. Predictive landslide-susceptibility maps could be useful in hazard mitigation by helping planners understand the probability of landslides in different regions.