I’m not entirely sure the idea behind this post will ever be useful to anyone, and certain as only a reformed sinner can be that it is not wise. Originally we had a polymorphic JAXB Property type, defined as:

public class PropertyElement<U, T extends PropertyElement<U, T>> extends AbstractElement<T> {

  @XmlAttribute String key;

  @XmlAttribute String name;

  @XmlAnyElement(lax = true)
  private U value;


Where we wanted private U value to be overridable by any subclass, provided that the actual runtime type of U exposed a public, static valueOf method that accepted a string and returned the value represented by the string. We did this because it worked for every Java primitive, plus most of the value types that I could think of. Naturally, this didn’t really work well with anything, so we just created an enumeration of possible types and forsook the notion of dynamically registering new property elements.

Abandoning this was a slightly bitter pill to swallow as it somewhat constrained the extensibility of Sunshower’s core data-model. But meh I tell you, because I spent hours fruitlessly and foolishly attempting to overcome the profound limitations of Java’s erased generics, only for my folly to haunt me for weeks longer. However, should some soul wish to soldier past, here’s what we did:

public class PropertyElement<U, T extends PropertyElement<U, T>> extends AbstractElement<T> {

  @XmlAnyElement(lax = true)
  private U value;

  private static transient Method valueOf;

I can hear some distant screaming. Possibly it’s me. That is verily a reference to a java.lang.reflect.Method It gets worse. The excellent EclipseLink MOXy library which we prefer over Jackson due to, you know, standards, allows us to define a void afterUnmarshal(Unmarshaller u, Object parent) method, which is invoked after MOXy has finished unmarshalling the object at hand. We figured that we didn’t need to write the actual value since, at runtime, its type is known to MOXy and JAX-RS, and sure enough we didn’t. Reading the object, on the other hand…(hangs head in shame):

  protected void doUnmarshal() {
    try {
      if (valueOf != null) {
        this.value = (U) valueOf.invoke(this, ((XMLRoot) value).getObject());
    } catch (Exception ex) {
      if(ex instanceof RuntimeException) { 
          throw ex;
      throw new RuntimeException(ex);

And we detected the actual type of the argument by introspecting the current type:

  public PropertyElement() {
    this.valueOf = configure(getClass());

 protected static Method configure(Class<?> type) {
    if (valueOf != null) {
      return valueOf;
    final ParameterizedType superclass = (ParameterizedType) type.getGenericSuperclass();
    final Object vt = superclass.getActualTypeArguments()[0];

    if (vt.getClass().equals(Class.class)) {
      Class<?> valueType = (Class<?>) vt;
      return Stream.of(valueType.getDeclaredMethods())
          .filter(t -> t.getName().equals("valueOf") && t.getParameterCount() == 1)
              t -> {
                final Class<?>[] ptypes = t.getParameterTypes();
                final Class<?> ptype = ptypes[0];
                return String.class.equals(ptype) || Object.class.equals(ptype);
              () ->
                  new IllegalArgumentException(
                      "Type does not supply a public, static method valueOf() accepting a string"));
    return null;

In a way, I’m sort of proud of this monster. Dr. Frankenstein would probably understand. On the other hand, our sins surely caught us, prompting a reasonable refactor to exorcise this demon.

Leave a Reply