Hua (㕦) is a hy-like lisp language to lua compiler.
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Hua (㕦) is a hy-like lisp language to lua compiler. It utilizes hy's parser and macro expansion mechanism and compiles the parsed hy syntax tree to metalua AST. The result is then passed to a lua runtime (using the python/lua bridge lupa) and use Typed Lua's code generator to generate lua codes. Hua is a work in progress and should be considered pre-alpha quality code right now (though I have been using hua to write lua codes scripting Max for the past month and everything seems to be OK).


The main benefit of hua over lua is the ability of meta-programming. Hua includes macros to do hy-style list and dict comprehension, a (still naive) OO system and some other tiny neat features. Though currently l2l and moonlisp may be more mature alternatives.

One of the benefit of hua over hy is speed, especially if you run the compiled lua code with luajit. Hua (and lua) has a proper lexical scoping implementation. For example, nested let is broken in hy, while hua has full support of nested let. Lua is widely used to be embedded in host application so for many softwares lua is the only option to extend the softwares capability.


  1. Create and activate a virtualenv
  2. Install lupa. It's a little bit tricky on Mac. If you have any troubles, please refer to this guide. (Side notes: currently hua uses Typed Lua's ast->code compiler to generate lua codes so a lua runtime in python (i.e. lupa) is required. I plan to write a native compiler that compiles hua to lua so at least the compiling process doesn't require a lua runtime. However I also plan to add repl to hua which will need the lua runtime. Hence lupa will still be a dependancy in future if you want to use the repl.)
  3. You need to install hua from the git repository: git clone; cd hua
  4. pip install -e .
  5. Now you can try the compiler by cding into eg/ and typing huac example.hua. The output will be example.lua.

Brief Introduction aka Comparison with Hy

Read example.hua and its output to get a quick idea of how hua codes look like and what they produce.

Like hy is a lispy python, hua is a lispy lua. It follow the conventions of lua, which means though hua compiler try to act like hy as much as possible, some aspects are still different.

hua macros are written in hy

Because currently hua is just a compiler and the compiler is written in hy, hua macros also need to written in hy.

require, require-macro and hua-import

Because lua use require to import a module, we use require-macro to require macros from a hy file.

You can just use require to require lua modules, or you can use hua-import, which works like import in hy.

setv vs. def

Because lua is not local by default, setv and def have different meanings in hua (unlike in hy). def is used to introduce a local variable and give it an initial value. setv will mutate a variable's value or introduce a global variable.

Frankly speaking I think in this way the code is more clear and readable.

(def x 10)
(setv x 20)

is compiled to

local x = 10
x = 20

There's no way to declare a local variable without assigning an initial value to the variable (like local x in lua), just use (def x nil). (Or we can introduce a new keyword local which works just like lua's local)

Multiple Assignment / Returned Value

The multiple assignment in lua and python are quite different. Assuming a function foo return two value 1, 2, then after x, y = foo(), x will be 1 and y will be 2 in both python and lua. However after the execution of the following codes:

x = foo()

In python x will have the value of a tuple (1, 2), while in lua x will have the value 1.

Hua follows lua's behavior, sometimes it may cause unexpected problems. Considering the following codes:

 (if true

You may think this expression will print out 1 2. However due to the way how hua compiler works, it will actually print out 1. The reason is that because the above hua code will be compiled to the following lua code:

local _hua_anon_var_1
if true then
  _hua_anon_var_1 = foo()
  _hua_anon_var_1 = bar()

To prevent this kinds of mistakes, you have to handle the multiple returned values explicitly. One way is to use multiple assignment to assign several variables to the returned values. You need to know how many returned values you will use in advance.

(setv (, x y)
      (if true
(print x y)

which will compile to:

local _hua_anon_var_2, _hua_anon_var_3
if true then
  _hua_anon_var_2, _hua_anon_var_3 = foo()
  _hua_anon_var_2, _hua_anon_var_3 = bar()
x, y = _hua_anon_var_2, _hua_anon_var_3

Another way is packing the multiple returned values into a table using [(foo)] syntax.

  (if true

will compile to

local _hua_anon_var_1
if true then
  _hua_anon_var_1 = {foo()}
  _hua_anon_var_1 = {bar()}

for loop syntax

Lua has both generic for and numeric for. The generic for works similar to python's for. However because lua's table is not iterable itself, you need to call pairs or ipairs on the table. The following hua code:

(def t1 [3 4 5 6])
(def t2 {"one" 1 "two" 2})
(for [(, i v1) (ipairs t1)
      (, k v2) (pairs t2)]
  (print i v1 k v2))

will compiled to:

local t1 = {3, 4, 5, 6}
local t2 = {two = 2, one = 1}
for i, v1 in ipairs(t1) do
  for k, v2 in pairs(t2) do

Because you will always call functions like pairs and iparis on table in the for expression, I save the syntax (for [x [i1 i2 i3]] ...) for the numeric for statement in lua. Something like (for [i [1 14 3]] (print i)) will compile to:

for i = 1, 14, 3 do

You can mix numeric for and generic for in the same for expression. The following codes:

(for [i [1 3]
      key (pairs {"pos" 3 "cons" 2})]
  (print "mixed:" i key))

will compiles to:

for i = 1, 3 do
  for key in pairs({pos = 3, cons = 2}) do

List and Dict comprehensive

Hua's list and dict comprehensive are macros that expanded to for expressions. So the syntax is different to hy's but similar to hua's for

(def l (list-comp (* i value)
                  [i [1 10]
                   (, _ value) (pairs {"T" 1 "F" 0})]))

will compile to

local l
  local _hua_result_1235 = {}
  for i = 1, 10 do
    for _, value in pairs({T = 1, F = 0}) do
      _hua_result_1235[(1 + #(_hua_result_1235))] = (i * value)
  l = _hua_result_1235

Tail Call Optimization

Unlike python, lua has tail call optimization. However if you define some recursive functions like below, it may blow the stack:

(defn test-tco [n]
    (if (> n 1)
      (test-tco (- n 1))
      (print "May overflow here")))

The compiled lua code explained why:

local test_tco = nil
test_tco = function (n)
  local _hua_anon_var_7
  if not (n <= 1) then
    _hua_anon_var_7 = test_tco((n - 1))
    _hua_anon_var_7 = print("May overflow here")
  return _hua_anon_var_7

Use return directly will solve this problem (at least for simple recursive form).

(defn test-tco2 [n]
  (if (> n 1)
    (return (test-tco (- n 1)))
    (print "No overflow!")))

will compiles to:

local test_tco2 = nil
test_tco2 = function (n)
  local _hua_anon_var_2
  if not (n <= 1) then
    return test_tco((n - 1))
    _hua_anon_var_2 = print("No overflow!")
  return _hua_anon_var_2

However please don't overuse return. If you want to return a table at the end of a file (as a module table), consider using export at the end

No Keyword Arguments for function

Because lua doesn't support named arguments, hua will not support keyword arguments.

"dot call"s

In hy ( "hello") is the same as (.bar foo "hello"). They both invoke a method bar of object foo with a single parameter "hello". However in hua it's entirely different. ( "hello") compiles to"hello") while (.bar foo "hello") compiles to foo:bar("hello"). In both case bar is a property of table foo, however in the first case bar is called with a single argument "hello" while in the second case bar is called with two arguments: table foo and "hello".

defclass difference

defclass works like hy's one. Use --init instead of --init--. When defining a class without parent class, --init method is mandatory.

;; A class without parent class.
;; A --init method is required for class without parent class.
(defclass Animal []
    (fn [self steps-per-turn]
        (setv self.steps-per-turn steps-per-turn))]
    (fn [self]
        (print (concat "I moved "
                       (tostring self.steps-per-turn)
                       " steps!")))]])

;; Hua only support single inheritance.
;; Use `(super method paras...)' to call parent's method
(defclass Cat [Animal]
    (fn [self steps-per-turn sound]
        (super --init  steps-per-turn)
        (setv self.sound sound))]
    (fn [self]
        (print self.sound)
        (super move))]])


Nearly any lua vs python differences will hold in hua vs hy. Some examples: hua has correct lexical scoping so nested let works; only nil and false are false in hua while empty string and list are also false in hy etc; hua table are not iterable like python's dict and list.

To be Improved

By priority:

  • No sane error messages, no error codes line numbers!

  • No enough test cases yet!

    • A repl may be needed for some test cases.
  • Currently every hua file need to begin with some initializing codes mainly to import standard macros into the hua file (see examples.hua). This should be done automatically.

  • Currently every lua file output by hua compiler will add hua/hua/core/ into lua's package path and auto require some functions in hua/hua/core/hua_stdlib.lua. The motif is that every lua file compiled by hua is usable immediately without any further configuration. However this is not a good idea because that means every lua file produced by hua compiler is not portable between machines. Later we may pack the hua_stdlib.lua as a luarock or ask users to copy the file to their lua package path.

  • Talking about hua_stdlib.lua, we may add more functional list/dict manipulating functions using the excellent Moses library.

  • huac can only compile one file at one time.

  • Repl, again

  • Native compiler in hy.

  • Docstring for function definition? It's quite doable because defn/defun is just a macro.


Thanks the authors of hy, lupa and Typed Lua. They wrote the most crucial parts and I'm just glueing these parts together.