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Iterative JSON parser with Pythonic interface



Ijson is an iterative JSON parser with a standard Python iterator interface.


All usage example will be using a JSON document describing geographical objects:

  "earth": {
    "europe": [
      {"name": "Paris", "type": "city", "info": { ... }},
      {"name": "Thames", "type": "river", "info": { ... }},
      // ...
    "america": [
      {"name": "Texas", "type": "state", "info": { ... }},
      // ...

Most common usage is having ijson yield native Python objects out of a JSON stream located under a prefix. Here's how to process all European cities:

import ijson

f = urlopen('http://.../')
objects = ijson.items(f, 'earth.europe.item')
cities = (o for o in objects if o['type'] == 'city')
for city in cities:

Sometimes when dealing with a particularly large JSON payload it may worth to not even construct individual Python objects and react on individual events immediately producing some result:

import ijson

parser = ijson.parse(urlopen('http://.../'))
for prefix, event, value in parser:
    if (prefix, event) == ('earth', 'map_key'):
        stream.write('<%s>' % value)
        continent = value
    elif prefix.endswith('.name'):
        stream.write('<object name="%s"/>' % value)
    elif (prefix, event) == ('earth.%s' % continent, 'end_map'):
        stream.write('</%s>' % continent)


Ijson provides several implementations of the actual parsing in the form of backends located in ijson/backends:

  • yajl2_cffi: wrapper around YAJL 2.x using CFFI, this is the fastest.
  • yajl2: wrapper around YAJL 2.x using ctypes, for when you can't use CFFI for some reason.
  • yajl: deprecated YAJL 1.x + ctypes wrapper, for even older systems.
  • python: pure Python parser, good to use with PyPy

You can import a specific backend and use it in the same way as the top level library:

import ijson.backends.yajl2_cffi as ijson

for item in ijson.items(...):
    # ...

Importing the top level library as import ijson uses the pure Python backend.


Python parser in ijson is relatively simple thanks to Douglas Crockford who invented a strict, easy to parse syntax.

The YAJL library by Lloyd Hilaiel is the most popular and efficient way to parse JSON in an iterative fashion.

Ijson was inspired by yajl-py wrapper by Hatem Nassrat. Though ijson borrows almost nothing from the actual yajl-py code it was used as an example of integration with yajl using ctypes.

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