Super Type Token – Annotated

Super Type Token is a way of storing type information in java. Original discussion on that can be found at Neal Gafter’s blog. In the post, you can find TypeReference implementation which implements the idea of Super Type Token, but the problem is that it’s not easy to follow the code because it is using several new APIs w/o explanation.

So I have done some investigation and written an annotated version of it. Some details in the code are borrowed for Java API documents and some are from Java API Specification.

import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.lang.reflect.Type;
import java.lang.reflect.ParameterizedType;
import java.lang.reflect.Constructor;
import java.lang.reflect.InvocationTargetException;
import java.lang.IllegalAccessException;
import java.lang.NoSuchMethodException;
import java.lang.InstantiationException;

 * References a generic type. Original implementation was done by Bob.
 * @author (Bob Lee)

 * Comments were added by Minkoo.
 * @author (Minkoo Seo)

// This is abstract class, so it can't be instantiated.
abstract class TypeReference<T> {

  // Type is the super interface of all types in Java. These include raw
  // types, parameterized types, array types, type variables and primitive
  // types.
  private final Type type;

  private Constructor<?> constructor;

  protected TypeReference() {

    // Give me class information.
    Class<?> klass = getClass();

    // See that I have created an anonymous subclass of TypeReference in the
    // main method. Hence, to get the TypeReference itself, I need superclass.
    // Furthermore, to get Type information, you should call
    // getGenericSuperclass() instead of getSuperclass().
    Type superClass = klass.getGenericSuperclass();

    if (superClass instanceof Class) {
      // Type has four subinterface:
      // (1) GenericArrayType: component type is either a
      // parameterized type or a type variable. Parameterized type is a class
      // or interface with its actual type argument, e.g., ArrayList<String>.
      // Type variable is unqualified identifier like T or V.
      // (2) ParameterizedType: see (1).
      // (3) TypeVariable<D>: see (1).
      // (4) WildcardType: ?
      // and one subclass:
      // (5) Class.
      // If TypeReference is created by 'new TypeReference() { }', then
      // superClass would be just an instance of Class instead of one of the
      // interfaces described above. In that case, because I don't have type
      // passed to TypeReference, an exception should be raised.
      throw new RuntimeException("Missing Type Parameter");

    // By superClass, we mean 'TypeReference<T>'. So, it is obvious that
    // superClass is ParameterizedType.
    ParameterizedType pt = (ParameterizedType) superClass;

    // We have one type argument in TypeRefence<T>: T.
    type = pt.getActualTypeArguments()[0];

  public Type getType() {
    return type;

  public T newInstance() throws NoSuchMethodException, IllegalAccessException,
    InvocationTargetException, InstantiationException {
    if (constructor == null) {
      // If T is raw type, we are happy with that. Otherwise, we get the raw
      // type of T. For example, if T is String, we are done. If T is
      // ArrayList<String>, we get ArrayList.
      Class<?> rawType = type instanceof Class<?>
        ? (Class<?>) type :
          (Class<?>) ((ParameterizedType) type).getRawType();
      constructor = rawType.getConstructor();

    // Create an instance of T. If T is raw type, no problem. But, if T is
    // parameterized type, we are actually creating a raw type instance of it,
    // and we need to cast it into T which is parameterized type. In that
    // case, (T) actually casts the raw type into parameterized type, but note
    // that this raises an unchecked warning. Unchecked warning is raised when
    // we cast something with type parameter or parameterized type.
    // Since it is pretty much obvious that newInstance actually creates the 
    // instance of T, unchecked warning is suppressed in the method signature.
    return (T) constructor.newInstance();

public class SuperTypeTokenDemo {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    // Note that an anonymous sublcass instance of TypeReference is being
    // created. Because TypeReference itself is an abstract class, I should
    // get the instance of the subclass.
    TypeReference tr = new TypeReference<ArrayList<String>>() { };
    TypeReference tr2 = new TypeReference<String>() { };

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