How to persist a property of type List<String> in JPA?

What is the smartest way to get an entity with a field of type List persisted?

package persistlistofstring;

import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;
import javax.persistence.Basic;
import javax.persistence.Entity;
import javax.persistence.EntityManager;
import javax.persistence.GeneratedValue;
import javax.persistence.GenerationType;
import javax.persistence.Id;
import javax.persistence.Persistence;

public class Command implements Serializable {

    @GeneratedValue(strategy = GenerationType.AUTO)
    Long id;
    List<String> arguments = new ArrayList<String>();

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        Command command = new Command();

        EntityManager em = Persistence

        System.out.println("Persisted with id=" +;

This code produces:

> Exception in thread "main" javax.persistence.PersistenceException: No Persistence provider for EntityManager named pu: Provider named oracle.toplink.essentials.PersistenceProvider threw unexpected exception at create EntityManagerFactory: 
> oracle.toplink.essentials.exceptions.PersistenceUnitLoadingException
> Local Exception Stack: 
> Exception [TOPLINK-30005] (Oracle TopLink Essentials - 2.0.1 (Build b09d-fcs (12/06/2007))): oracle.toplink.essentials.exceptions.PersistenceUnitLoadingException
> Exception Description: An exception was thrown while searching for persistence archives with ClassLoader: sun.misc.Launcher$AppClassLoader@11b86e7
> Internal Exception: javax.persistence.PersistenceException: Exception [TOPLINK-28018] (Oracle TopLink Essentials - 2.0.1 (Build b09d-fcs (12/06/2007))): oracle.toplink.essentials.exceptions.EntityManagerSetupException
> Exception Description: predeploy for PersistenceUnit [pu] failed.
> Internal Exception: Exception [TOPLINK-7155] (Oracle TopLink Essentials - 2.0.1 (Build b09d-fcs (12/06/2007))): oracle.toplink.essentials.exceptions.ValidationException
> Exception Description: The type [interface java.util.List] for the attribute [arguments] on the entity class [class persistlistofstring.Command] is not a valid type for a serialized mapping. The attribute type must implement the Serializable interface.
>         at oracle.toplink.essentials.exceptions.PersistenceUnitLoadingException.exceptionSearchingForPersistenceResources(
>         at oracle.toplink.essentials.ejb.cmp3.EntityManagerFactoryProvider.createEntityManagerFactory(
>         at javax.persistence.Persistence.createEntityManagerFactory(
>         at javax.persistence.Persistence.createEntityManagerFactory(
>         at persistlistofstring.Command.main(
> Caused by: 
> ...

Asked by: Paul609 | Posted: 21-01-2022

Answer 1

Use some JPA 2 implementation: it adds a @ElementCollection annotation, similar to the Hibernate one, that does exactly what you need. There's one example here.


As mentioned in the comments below, the correct JPA 2 implementation is


Map<Key, Value> collection;


Answered by: Jack428 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 2

Should anyone be looking for an alternative solution where you store your string lists as one field in your database, here's how I solved that. Create a Converter like this:

import java.util.Arrays;
import java.util.List;

import javax.persistence.AttributeConverter;
import javax.persistence.Converter;

import static java.util.Collections.*;

public class StringListConverter implements AttributeConverter<List<String>, String> {
    private static final String SPLIT_CHAR = ";";
    public String convertToDatabaseColumn(List<String> stringList) {
        return stringList != null ? String.join(SPLIT_CHAR, stringList) : "";

    public List<String> convertToEntityAttribute(String string) {
        return string != null ? Arrays.asList(string.split(SPLIT_CHAR)) : emptyList();

Now use it on your Entities like this:

@Convert(converter = StringListConverter.class)
private List<String> yourList;

In the database, your list will be stored as foo;bar;foobar, and in your Java object you will get a list with those strings.

Answered by: Daisy175 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 3

It seems none of the answers explored the most important settings for an @ElementCollection mapping.

When you map a list with this annotation and let JPA/Hibernate auto-generate the tables, columns, etc., it'll use auto-generated names as well.

So, let's analyze a basic example:

@Table(name = "sample")
public class MySample {

    private Long id;

    @ElementCollection // 1
    @CollectionTable(name = "my_list", joinColumns = @JoinColumn(name = "id")) // 2
    @Column(name = "list") // 3
    private List<String> list;
  1. The basic @ElementCollection annotation (where you can define the known fetch and targetClass preferences)
  2. The @CollectionTable annotation is very useful when it comes to giving a name to the table that'll be generated, as well as definitions like joinColumns, foreignKey's, indexes, uniqueConstraints, etc.
  3. @Column is important to define the name of the column that'll store the varchar value of the list.

The generated DDL would be:

-- table sample
  id bigint(20) NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,

-- table my_list
  id bigint(20) NOT NULL,
  list varchar(255) DEFAULT NULL,
  FOREIGN KEY (id) REFERENCES sample (id)

Answered by: Melissa423 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 4

This answer was made pre-JPA2 implementations, if you're using JPA2, see the ElementCollection answer above:

Lists of objects inside a model object are generally considered "OneToMany" relationships with another object. However, a String is not (by itself) an allowable client of a One-to-Many relationship, as it doesn't have an ID.

So, you should convert your list of Strings to a list of Argument-class JPA objects containing an ID and a String. You could potentially use the String as the ID, which would save a little space in your table both from removing the ID field and by consolidating rows where the Strings are equal, but you would lose the ability to order the arguments back into their original order (as you didn't store any ordering information).

Alternatively, you could convert your list to @Transient and add another field (argStorage) to your class that is either a VARCHAR() or a CLOB. You'll then need to add 3 functions: 2 of them are the same and should convert your list of Strings into a single String (in argStorage) delimited in a fashion that you can easily separate them. Annotate these two functions (that each do the same thing) with @PrePersist and @PreUpdate. Finally, add the third function that splits the argStorage into the list of Strings again and annotate it @PostLoad. This will keep your CLOB updated with the strings whenever you go to store the Command, and keep the argStorage field updated before you store it to the DB.

I still suggest doing the first case. It's good practice for real relationships later.

Answered by: Lenny504 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 5

We can also use this.

private List<String> arguments;

Answered by: Kelvin181 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 6

According to Java Persistence with Hibernate

mapping collections of value types with annotations [...]. At the time of writing it isn't part of the Java Persistence standard

If you were using Hibernate, you could do something like:

@CollectionOfElements(targetElement = String.class)
@JoinTable(name = "foo", joinColumns = @JoinColumn(name = "foo_id"))
@IndexColumn(name = "POSITION", base = 1)
@Column(name = "baz", nullable = false)
private List<String> arguments = new ArrayList<String>();

Update: Note, this is now available in JPA2.

Answered by: Catherine492 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 7

When using the Hibernate implementation of JPA , I've found that simply declaring the type as an ArrayList instead of List allows hibernate to store the list of data.

Clearly this has a number of disadvantages compared to creating a list of Entity objects. No lazy loading, no ability to reference the entities in the list from other objects, perhaps more difficulty in constructing database queries. However when you are dealing with lists of fairly primitive types that you will always want to eagerly fetch along with the entity, then this approach seems fine to me.

public class Command implements Serializable {

    @GeneratedValue(strategy = GenerationType.AUTO)
    Long id;

    ArrayList<String> arguments = new ArrayList<String>();


Answered by: Max193 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 8

I had the same problem so I invested the possible solution given but at the end I decided to implement my ';' separated list of String.

so I have

// a ; separated list of arguments
String arguments;

public List<String> getArguments() {
    return Arrays.asList(arguments.split(";"));

This way the list is easily readable/editable in the database table;

Answered by: Emma825 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 9

Ok i know its bit late. But for those brave souls that will see this as time passes.

As written in documentation:

@Basic: The simplest type of mapping to a database column. The Basic annotation can be applied to a persistent property or instance variable of any of the following types: Java primitive types, [...], enums, and any other type that implements

The important part is type that implements Serializable

So by far the most simple and easiest to use solution is simply using ArrayList instead of List (or any serializable container):

ArrayList<Color> lovedColors;

ArrayList<String> catNames;

Remember however that this will use system serialization, so it will come with some price, such as:

  • if serialized object model will change, u might not be able to restore data

  • small overhead is added for each element stored.

In short

it is quite simple to store flags or few elements, but i would not recomend it to store data that might grow big.

Answered by: Haris439 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 10

Thiago answer is correct, adding sample more specific to question, @ElementCollection will create new table in your database, but without mapping two tables, It means that the collection is not a collection of entities, but a collection of simple types (Strings, etc.) or a collection of embeddable elements (class annotated with @Embeddable).

Here is the sample to persist list of String

private Collection<String> options = new ArrayList<String>();

Here is the sample to persist list of Custom object

private Collection<Car> carList = new ArrayList<Car>();

For this case we need to make class Embeddable

public class Car {

Answered by: Kellan937 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 11

Here is the solution for storing a Set using @Converter and StringTokenizer. A bit more checks against @jonck-van-der-kogel solution.

In your Entity class:

@Convert(converter = StringSetConverter.class)
private Set<String> washSaleTickers;


package com.model.domain.converters;

import javax.persistence.AttributeConverter;
import javax.persistence.Converter;
import java.util.HashSet;
import java.util.Set;
import java.util.StringTokenizer;

public class StringSetConverter implements AttributeConverter<Set<String>, String> {
    private final String GROUP_DELIMITER = "=IWILLNEVERHAPPEN=";

    public String convertToDatabaseColumn(Set<String> stringList) {
        if (stringList == null) {
            return new String();
        return String.join(GROUP_DELIMITER, stringList);

    public Set<String> convertToEntityAttribute(String string) {
        Set<String> resultingSet = new HashSet<>();
        StringTokenizer st = new StringTokenizer(string, GROUP_DELIMITER);
        while (st.hasMoreTokens())
        return resultingSet;

Answered by: Miller647 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 12

My fix for this issue was to separate the primary key with the foreign key. If you are using eclipse and made the above changes please remember to refresh the database explorer. Then recreate the entities from the tables.

Answered by: Grace466 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 13

What I wanted was a simple way of persisting a set of Strings, in a table column.

I ended up using JSON, as MySQL 5.7+, has native support. Here's my solution

    @Column(name = "eligible_approvers", columnDefinition = "json")
    @Convert(converter = ArrayJsonConverter.class)
    private Set<String> eligibleApprovers;

And then write a very basic converter

@Converter(autoApply = true)
public class ArrayJsonConverter implements AttributeConverter<Set, String> {

    static final ObjectMapper mapper = new ObjectMapper();

    public String convertToDatabaseColumn(Set list) {
        if (list == null)
            return null;
        try {
            return mapper.writeValueAsString(list);
        } catch (JsonProcessingException e) {
            throw new RuntimeException(e);

    public Set convertToEntityAttribute(String dbJson) {
        if (dbJson == null)
            return null;
        try {
            return mapper.readValue(dbJson, new TypeReference<Set<String>>() {
        } catch (JsonProcessingException e) {
            throw new RuntimeException(e);

Answered by: Rubie565 | Posted: 22-02-2022

Answer 14

As my reputation is not enough yet to comment on the much underrated answer written by @razvang:

As this question was asked over a decade ago, keep in mind much of the world has changed in the time since. We now have databases with native JSON column support and can use this functionality instead of using separate entities, joins or custom String-to-List converters, which are used by the other answers.

Let me suggest two purely optional changes to @razvang's superb answer though, which might be interesting depending on your specific situation:

  1. You could omit the auto_apply = true and add @Convert(converter = <CONVERTER_CLASS_NAME>.class) to the entity field to keep control over when your converter is used.
  2. Instead of throwing a RuntimeException whenever a conversion fails, you could handle the error right there (for example pass an empty list and write a log message) to make it fail somewhat gracefully.

Answered by: Elise760 | Posted: 22-02-2022

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