Understanding Jina Primitive Data Types


This guide assumes you have a basic understanding of Jina, if you haven’t, please check out Jina 101 first.

A primitive data type is a data type for which the programming language provides built-in support. For example, when writing a Numpy or Tensorflow program, users perform matrix manipulation on multi-dimensional arrays, such as np.ndarray or tensor.

Jina introduced the new jina.types module since v0.8. Primitive data types complete Jina’s design by clarifying the low-level data representation in Jina, yielding a much simpler, safer, and faster interface on the high-level. More importantly, they ensure the universality and extensibility for Jina in the long-term.


Following a progressive manner of software design principle, Jina is shipped with multiple layers of abstractions. Each layer targets a specific developer group. As a consequence, developers can choose different levels of API to interact with Jina and accomplish their tasks.

Before we introduce the Jina primitive data types, drivers help the executors to handle the network traffic by directly interacting with the Protobuf messages. Thus our back-end engineers have to generate or parse a stream of bytes in the network layer. This is not aligned with the design principle of Jina.

Before you start

We expect you have a clean Python 3.7/3.8/3.9 (virtual) build. With Jina installed on your machine:

pip install -U jina


Jina primitive data types can be categorised into basic types, composite types and derived types. A basic data type represents a single real-world object, such as Document, Querylang, NdArray. To enable a Pythonic interface and keeps the data safe, we introduced composite data types, such as DocumentSet, QueryLangSet, Request. Besides, we created several derived types, such as MultimodalDocument.

List of Jina Data Types






A Pythonic interface to access and manipulate DocumentProto.



A Pythonic interface to access and manipulate modalities at chunk level derived from Document.



A mutable sequence of Document.



A view of a sequence of DocumentSet at a higher granularity level derived from DocumentSet.



A view of a sequence of matched DocumentSet derived from DocumentSet.



A Pythonic interface to access and manipulate MessageProto.



Representing fixed-size multidimensional items.



A derived type based on NdArray which supports quantization.



A derived type based on NdArray which stores non-zero entries.



A Pythonic interface to access and manipulate QueryLangProto.



A mutable sequence of QueryLang.



A Pythonic interface to access and manipulate RequestProto.



A Pythonic interface to access and manipulate NamedScoreProto.

Jina Types in Action

In this section, we will introduce how to use Jina types. More specifically, we will be focusing on jina Document primitive data type. Since as a user, you might use Document primitive type daily. Besides, the other types shares the same design rationale as Document primitive data type.

We have three properties designed to access a Document, include text(), blob() and buffer(). A Jina Document object is expected to have one of these three properties as the content() of a Document. For example:

import numpy as np
from jina import Document

d = Document()
# set content to text, same as d.text = ...
d.content = 'hello jina'
# set content to buffer, same as d.buffer = ...
d.content = b'1e2f2c'
# set content to blob, same as `d.blob = ...
d.content = np.random.random([3,4,5])

Jina will automatically infer to MIME type based on the content() of the Document. The use case of the Document is dependent on your data:

  • Use text() if you want to index/query textual data.

  • Use blob() if you want to index/query image/video/audio.

  • Use buffer() if you are not sure about the exact data format.

To create a document from constructor:

from jina import Document

# Create a document from constructor
d0 = Document('hello jina!') # from string
d1 = Document({'text': 'hello jina!'}) # from dict
d2 = Document(b'j\x0chello jina!') # from buffer
d3 = Document('{"text": "hello jina!"}') # from json

# Create a document from protobuf
from jina.proto import jina_pb2
d = jina_pb2.DocumentProto()
d.text = 'hello jina!'
d4 = Document(d)

As was introduced before, a DocumentSet is a mutable sequence of Document. To create & access a DocumentSet:

from jina import Document
from jina.types.sets.document import DocumentSet

# First, create 2 documents
d0 = Document(content='doc0')
d1 = Document(content='doc1')
# Initialize a document set
ds = DocumentSet([d0, d1])
# Add a new document.
d2 = Document(content='doc2')

Once you create an instance of DocumentSet, Jina offers you a Pythonic interface to manipulate the set. For example:

from jina import Document
from jina.types.sets.document import DocumentSet

# First, create 2 documents
d0 = Document(content='doc0')
d1 = Document(content='doc1')
# Initialize a document set
ds = DocumentSet([d0, d1])
# Get the number of docs inside the set.
# Get document by index
# Reverse a documentset
# Remove all contents from a document set

You might be wondering why do we need a document set? The answer is Jina’s recursive data structure. To put it simply, Jina offers a way to represent documents in a recursive manner. A Jina Document might contain a list of child Document. This recursive data structure allows us to query Document at different granularity levels. Such as match at the paragraph level, or even at the sentence level. For example:

from jina import Document

# First, create 2 documents
chunk0 = Document(content='sentence0')
chunk1 = Document(content='sentence1')
document = Document()
# Add chunks to the document
# Check the type of chunks

If you print the type of chunks, you will find out it’s named <class 'jina.types.sets.chunk.ChunkSet'>, a derived data type based on DocumentSet. ChunkSet added extra logic to handle logics such as granularity() and adjacency(). Similarly, we have MatchSet manage the matched documents given a user query.

Last but now least, if you are working on the document with different modalities, MultimodalDocument is the right Jina data type to use. For example:

import numpy as np
from jina.types.document.multimodal import MultimodalDocument

visual_content = np.random.random([3,4,5])
textual_content = 'hello jina!'
multimodal_document = MultimodalDocument(
    modality_content_map={'visual': visual_content, 'textual': textual_content}
# Check the modalities of the document
# Get the content of document by modality name
content = multimodal_document['visual']

Design Decisions

While designing and implementing Jina primitive data types, we have been always kept the following principles in mind:

View, not copy

We do not want another storage layer upon Protobuf. The objective of Jina primitive data type is to provide an enhanced view of the protobuf storage by maintaining a reference.

Delegate, not replicate

Protobuf object provides attribute access already. For simple data types such as str, float, int, the experience is good enough. We do not want to replicate every attribute defined in Protobuf again in the Jina data type, but focus on the ones that need unique logic or particular attention.

More than a Pythonic interface

Jina data type is compatible with the Python idiom. Moreover, it summarizes common patterns used in the drivers and the client and makes those patterns safer and easier to use. For example, doc_id conversion is previously implemented inside different drivers, which is error-prone.

Reference to the design decisions can be find here .

Final Words

In this guide, we introduced why we need Jina primitive data types, how we organize Jina primitive data types. Apart from that, we gave some concrete examples of how to use Jina primitive data types. Finally, we recapped the design decisions made while designing Jina primitive data types. We hope now you have a better understanding of Jina primitive data types.

What’s Next

Thanks for your time & effort while reading this guide! If you still have questions, feel free to submit an issue or post a message in our community slack channel .

To gain a deeper knowledge on the implementation of Jina primitive data types, you can find the source code here.