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Hibernate Query Methods

  Asked By: Jose    Date: Dec 14    Category: Java    Views: 2133

The queries we general use can be divided up into three main categories :

1. Simple HQL queries using one class (where no joins are required)
2. HQL queries which require joins over several classes
3. HQL queries which cannot be efficiently done using joins

Simple HQL queries

The first and simplest query is the plain old HQL query on one object,
as you can find in all the Hibernate introductory examples :

from Sale sale where sale.date > :startDate

This type of query is not really the subject of this article. If it
works, fine. However, there are often cases where this type of query
will pose problems for inexperienced Hiberate programmers.
Queries using joins

Sometimes, a Hibernate query will take an excessive amount of time to
execute. A Hibernate query which takes more than a few hundred
milliseconds to execute should be immediately considered with
suspicion. Under the hood (looking at the log files), the typical
symptom will often be an excessive number of SQL queries (potentially
as many as Kn + 1, where n is the number of objects returned). This
means that for each object that Hibernate loads, it needs to do one or
more extra SQL queries to load associated objects. This is generally
regarded as a bad thing.

Consider the following (simplified) Hibernate mappings :

<class name="Sale" dynamic-update="true" table="t_sale" >

<id column="sale_ch_id" name="id" unsaved-value="null"

<generator class="uuid.hex"/>

<property column="sale_d_date" name="date" type="date"
<property column="sale_n_price" name="price"
type="big_decimal" not-null="true"/>
<many-to-one name="product" class="Product"

Now lets go back to the previous query. This query will generate (at
least) one SQL query for the initial select,

select sale_ch_id, sale_d_date, sale_n_price...from t_sale...

and then a sequence of selects from the associated tables :

select prod_ch_id...from t_product...
select prod_ch_id...from t_product...
select prod_ch_id...from t_product...

This problem is well-known in Hibernate circles, and the solution is
straight-forward once you know it. The associated objects must be
loaded in the initial query, for example by using the 'left join
fetch' construction :

from Sale sale
where sale.date > :startDate
left join fetch sale.product

This usually works well for classes with only a handful of associated
objects. In practice, there may be an issue in cases where there are a
lot of associated tables, and where many of the associated tables
contain only limited amounts of static data.

from Sale sale
where sale.date > :startDate
left join fetch sale.salesman
left join fetch sale.product
left join fetch sale.product.color
left join fetch sale.product.category

Notice how we may need to perform left joins on second-level
associations (eg. sale.product.color). But do we really need to do
left joins on the whole object tree from Sale down ? What are the pros
and cons ?

In practice, if you want to be sure of having a unique SQL query, you
will potentially need left joins on all directly and indirectly
associated objects (I'm not talking about collections, which should
use lazy-loading, and which are not the subject of this discussion).
However, if you have a lot of objects to load, you may have to be more
selective about what you fetch, and about how big your SQL query gets.

For example, if your Color table contains 10 lines, omitting the join
on sale.product.color will result in (at most) 10 extra SQL queries,
bringing the total to 11. Once all the Color instances are loaded into
the Hibernate session cache, you can trust Hibernate not to do any
extra queries.

Bigger queries return more data, and when large data sets are
involved, it is quite possible that the overhead of the weighty SQL
query outweighs the overhead of reading a few small tables into memory
and caching the results. In practice, these smaller tables should
probably be cached using the second-level hibernate caching anyway.
The bottom line is that the query structure should be designed and
optimised via unit testing and concrete metrics
(System.currentTimeMillis() will do fine).
Cases where joined queries aren't enough

Now suppose we have complex, multiple, bi-directional relations
between two table. For example, suppose we have two classes : Company
and City. A company is located in a city. A city outsources different
types of work (water installation management, electricity management,
etc.) to different companies. Each company is in turn located in a city.

In this situation, the presence of many-to-one relations means that
Hibernate will potentially generate an uncontrollable number of SQL
queries, and left join fetching is helpless to resolve the problem :
you would end up with a query looking something like this :

from company c
left join fetch c.city
left join fetch c.city.waterCompany
left join fetch c.city.electrityCompany
left join fetch c.city.waterCompany.city
left join fetch c.city.electrityCompany.city

In this case, you basically have two main options :

1. Let the client wait half an hour for his reports
2. Use an optimised HQL query to return only the columns you really

Generally, the first option isn't greatly appreciated by the client.
So lets look at the second option. This approach involves determining
exactly which columns you really need, and instanciating data-transfer
JavaBean objects containing exactly those columns.

select new CityItem(city.id, city.name, city.electrityCompany.name)
from City city

This technique is fast and efficient, and avoids the overheads of
handling associated objects and of loading large numbers of persistent
objects into the Hibernate session cache. The only downside is the
need to create a dedicated data-transfer class for each query.
More advanced techniques

Finally, I will present a variation on the previous technique, which
avoids the need to create a new data-transfer class for each query.
The idea is to retrieve a list of instances of a Hibernate-persisted
business class, using a given HQL query, but with only a specified set
of columns being instanciated. This allows fast, light-weight queries
which return only the minimum necessary information, and avoid complex
joins in the HQL queries. For example :

String query =
"select com.id, com.label, com.postCode, com.mayor.name
from Community as com
left join com.mayor
order by com.label ";

results = HibernateUtils.find(query);


String query =
"select com.id, com.label, com.postCode, com.mayor.name
from Community as com
left join com.mayor
where com.label like ?
order by com.label ";

results = HibernateUtils.find(query,
new Object[] {name + "%"},
new Type [] {Hibernate.STRING});

This query will return a list of Community objects, but with only the
4 specified fields instanciated. Note that this is a powerful
technique, as the presentation layer may use ordinary business classes
instead of data transfer objects, without having to know the details
of the querying techniques being used. This method should be reserved
for pure read-only/display actions, however, as data manipulation with
incompletely-instanciated objects is generally a very bad idea.

The implementation of such a method is fairly simple, and based on
introspection and the Apache BeanUtils classes. For the curious, here
is a simplified version of the implementation of the first method
(error handling and optimised caching code has been removed for
simplicity) :

public List find(final String hqlQuery) throws Exception {

List results = new ArrayList();
// Prepare a Hibernate query
Query query = SessionManager.currentSession().createQuery(hqlQuery);
// Determine the return type for this query
Type beanType = query.getReturnTypes()[0];
Class beanClass = beanType.getReturnedClass();
// Extract the list of columns returned by this query
String[] columns = extractColumns(hqlQuery);
// Pre-process bean attribute names, stripping spaces 'as' clauses
String[] attributeNames = getAttributeFieldNames(columns);
// Pre-process result field names, stripping spaces and retaining
// alias field names instead of the original column names where necessary
String[] resultFieldNames = getResultFieldNames(columns);
// Execute query and build result list
Iterator iter = query.iterate();
while(iter.hasNext()) {
Object[] row = (Object[]) iter.next();
Object bean = beanClass.newInstance();
for (int j = 0; j < row.length; j++) {
if (row[j] != null) {
initialisePath(bean, attributeNames[j]);
PropertyUtils.setProperty(bean, attributeNames[j], row[j]);
return results;

private static void initialisePath(final Object bean,
final String fieldName)
throws Exception {
int dot = fieldName.indexOf('.');
while (dot >= 0) {
String attributeName = fieldName.substring(0, dot);
Class attributeClass = PropertyUtils.getPropertyType(bean,
if (PropertyUtils.getProperty(bean, attributeName) == null) {
PropertyUtils.setProperty(bean, attributeName,
dot = fieldName.indexOf('.', dot + 1);

The implementation of the version using parameters is left as an
exercise to the reader.
Sidenote : Unit testing

There are plenty of good articles on the merits of unit testing and of
test-driven development, so I won't write much about this here. But, a
word for the wise : in my experience, you cannot efficently code
Hibernate queries without using a test-driven approach. OK, maybe I
exaggerate a little. But the fact is that it's a lot easier to
fine-tune your Hibernate queries against a local database, using
timers and/or by studying the generated SQL queries, than if you wait
until the solution is deployed in a WAR and the page takes 5 minutes
to appear.

There is also much debate on how to test the Hibernate layers
(hibernate mappings and DAOs). In our case, we are lucky enough to
have a test database containing legacy data. We use a dedicated test
database, which is also used for the test server.

1. Unit tests must not change the state of the database (so any
created objects should be removed in the tearDown() method)
2. Unit tests may use existing test data (useful to test real
cases), but only for read-only query operations (existing data must
not be modified). It is the developers responsibility to only use
stable existing test data, and to update the test cases if necessary.


Hibernate is a powerful object/relational persistence library, and it
has an equally powerful query mechanism. However, the power of
Hibernate does not dispense the developer from optimising the HQL
queries. Indeed, the very simplicity of HQL can sometimes hide serious
performance issues for the unwary. However, when well tuned, and using
appropriate querying techniques, Hibernate can result in cleaner,
simpler code as well as performance equaling that of an optimised SQL
query via JDBC.



1 Answer Found

Answer #1    Answered By: Olga Allen     Answered On: Dec 14

Hibernate's outer join fetch  behaviour is controlled with Hibernate's global configuration option  "hibernate.max_fetch_depth" (maximum depth of outer join fetching). Recommended values for the fetch depth depend on the join performance  and the size of database  tables.Test your application with low values less than 4 and change  the number  appropriately while tuning your application. Check it along with "hibernate.show_sql" set to true to see the queries  but this is not the only factor that affects your queries.

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