Writing CorDapp States

In Corda, a contract state (or just ‘state’) contains data used by a CorDapp. It can be thought of as a disk file that the CorDapp can use to persist data across transactions. States are immutable: once created they are never updated, instead, any changes must generate a new successor state. States can be updated (consumed) only once: the notary is responsible for ensuring there is no “double spending” by only signing a transaction if the input states are all free.

In Corda, states are instances of classes that implement ContractState. The ContractState interface is defined as follows:

interface ContractState {
    val participants: List<AbstractParty>

ContractState has a single field, participants. participants is a List of the AbstractParty that are considered to have a stake in the state. A participant is any party that should be notified when the state is created or consumed.

The list of participants is required for certain types of transactions. For example, when changing the notary for this state, every participant has to be involved and approve the transaction so that they receive the updated state, and don’t end up in a situation where they can no longer use a state they possess, since someone consumed that state during the notary change process.

The participants list should normally be derived from the contents of the state.

Among other things, the participants will:

  • Usually store the state in their vault (see below)
  • Need to sign any notary change and contract upgrade transactions involving this state
  • Receive any finalised transactions involving this state as part of FinalityFlow / ReceiveFinalityFlow

The behaviour of the state can be further customised by implementing sub-interfaces of ContractState. The two most common sub-interfaces are LinearState and OwnableState.

LinearState models shared facts for which there is only one current version at any point in time. LinearState states evolve in a straight line by superseding themselves. On the other hand, OwnableState is meant to represent assets that can be freely split and merged over time. Cash is a good example of an OwnableState - two existing $5 cash states can be combined into a single $10 cash state, or split into five $1 cash states. With OwnableState, its the total amount held that is important, rather than the actual units held.

We can picture the hierarchy as follows:

state hierarchy

The LinearState interface is defined as follows:

 * A state that evolves by superseding itself, all of which share the common "linearId".
 * This simplifies the job of tracking the current version of certain types of state in e.g. a vault.
interface LinearState : ContractState {
     * Unique id shared by all LinearState states throughout history within the vaults of all parties.
     * Verify methods should check that one input and one output share the id in a transaction,
     * except at issuance/termination.
    val linearId: UniqueIdentifier

Remember that in Corda states are immutable and can’t be updated directly. Instead, we represent an evolving fact as a sequence of LinearState states that share the same linearId and represent an audit trail for the lifecycle of the fact over time.

When we want to extend a LinearState chain (i.e. a sequence of states sharing a linearId), we:

  • Use the linearId to extract the latest state in the chain from the vault
  • Create a new state that has the same linearId
  • Create a transaction with:
  • The current latest state in the chain as an input
  • The newly-created state as an output

The new state will now become the latest state in the chain, representing the new current state of the agreement.

linearId is of type UniqueIdentifier, which is a combination of:

  • A Java UUID representing a globally unique 128 bit random number
  • An optional external-reference string for referencing the state in external systems

The OwnableState interface is defined as follows:

 * Return structure for [OwnableState.withNewOwner]
data class CommandAndState(val command: CommandData, val ownableState: OwnableState)

 * A contract state that can have a single owner.
interface OwnableState : ContractState {
    /** There must be a MoveCommand signed by this key to claim the amount. */
    val owner: AbstractParty

    /** Copies the underlying data structure, replacing the owner field with this new value and leaving the rest alone. */
    fun withNewOwner(newOwner: AbstractParty): CommandAndState


  • owner is the PublicKey of the asset’s owner
  • withNewOwner(newOwner: AbstractParty) creates an copy of the state with a new owner

Because OwnableState models fungible assets that can be merged and split over time, OwnableState instances do not have a linearId. $5 of cash created by one transaction is considered to be identical to $5 of cash produced by another transaction.

FungibleState<T> is an interface to represent things which are fungible, this means that there is an expectation that these things can be split and merged. That’s the only assumption made by this interface. This interface should be implemented if you want to represent fractional ownership in a thing, or if you have many things. Examples:

  • There is only one Mona Lisa which you wish to issue 100 tokens, each representing a 1% interest in the Mona Lisa
  • A company issues 1000 shares with a nominal value of 1, in one batch of 1000. This means the single batch of 1000 shares could be split up into 1000 units of 1 share.

The interface is defined as follows:

interface FungibleState<T : Any> : ContractState {
     * Amount represents a positive quantity of some token which can be cash, tokens, stock, agreements, or generally
     * anything else that's quantifiable with integer quantities. See [Amount] for more details.
    val amount: Amount<T>

As seen, the interface takes a type parameter T that represents the fungible thing in question. This should describe the basic type of the asset e.g. GBP, USD, oil, shares in company , etc. and any additional metadata (issuer, grade, class, etc.). An upper-bound is not specified for T to ensure flexibility. Typically, a class would be provided that implements TokenizableAssetInfo so the thing can be easily added and subtracted using the Amount class.

This interface has been added in addition to FungibleAsset to provide some additional flexibility which FungibleAsset lacks, in particular:

  • FungibleAsset defines an amount property of type Amount<Issued<T>>, therefore there is an assumption that all fungible things are issued by a single well known party but this is not always the case.
  • FungibleAsset implements OwnableState, as such there is an assumption that all fungible things are ownable.

You can also customize your state by implementing the following interfaces:

  • QueryableState, which allows the state to be queried in the node’s database using custom attributes (see api-persistence)
  • SchedulableState, which allows us to schedule future actions for the state (e.g. a coupon payment on a bond) (see Event scheduling).

Beyond implementing ContractState or a sub-interface, a state is allowed to have any number of additional fields and methods. For example, here is the relatively complex definition for a state representing cash:

/** A state representing a cash claim against some party. */
data class State(
        override val amount: Amount<Issued<Currency>>,

        /** There must be a MoveCommand signed by this key to claim the amount. */
        override val owner: AbstractParty
) : FungibleAsset<Currency>, QueryableState {
    constructor(deposit: PartyAndReference, amount: Amount<Currency>, owner: AbstractParty)
            : this(Amount(amount.quantity, Issued(deposit, amount.token)), owner)

    override val exitKeys = setOf(owner.owningKey, amount.token.issuer.party.owningKey)
    override val participants = listOf(owner)

    override fun withNewOwnerAndAmount(newAmount: Amount<Issued<Currency>>, newOwner: AbstractParty): FungibleAsset<Currency>
            = copy(amount = amount.copy(newAmount.quantity), owner = newOwner)

    override fun toString() = "${Emoji.bagOfCash}Cash($amount at ${amount.token.issuer} owned by $owner)"

    override fun withNewOwner(newOwner: AbstractParty) = CommandAndState(Commands.Move(), copy(owner = newOwner))
    infix fun ownedBy(owner: AbstractParty) = copy(owner = owner)
    infix fun issuedBy(party: AbstractParty) = copy(amount = Amount(amount.quantity, amount.token.copy(issuer = amount.token.issuer.copy(party = party))))
    infix fun issuedBy(deposit: PartyAndReference) = copy(amount = Amount(amount.quantity, amount.token.copy(issuer = deposit)))
    infix fun withDeposit(deposit: PartyAndReference): Cash.State = copy(amount = amount.copy(token = amount.token.copy(issuer = deposit)))

    /** Object Relational Mapping support. */
    override fun generateMappedObject(schema: MappedSchema): PersistentState {
        return when (schema) {
            is CashSchemaV1 -> CashSchemaV1.PersistentCashState(
                    owner = this.owner,
                    pennies = this.amount.quantity,
                    currency = this.amount.token.product.currencyCode,
                    issuerPartyHash = this.amount.token.issuer.party.owningKey.toStringShort(),
                    issuerRef = this.amount.token.issuer.reference.bytes
        /** Additional schema mappings would be added here (eg. CashSchemaV2, CashSchemaV3, ...) */
            else -> throw IllegalArgumentException("Unrecognised schema $schema")

    /** Object Relational Mapping support. */
    override fun supportedSchemas(): Iterable<MappedSchema> = listOf(CashSchemaV1)
    /** Additional used schemas would be added here (eg. CashSchemaV2, CashSchemaV3, ...) */

Whenever a node records a new transaction, it also decides whether it should store each of the transaction’s output states in its vault. The default vault implementation makes the decision based on the following rules:

  • If the state is an OwnableState, the vault will store the state if the node is the state’s owner
  • Otherwise, the vault will store the state if it is one of the participants

States that are not considered relevant are not stored in the node’s vault. However, the node will still store the transactions that created the states in its transaction storage.

When a ContractState is added to a TransactionBuilder, it is wrapped in a TransactionState:

typealias ContractClassName = String

 * A wrapper for [ContractState] containing additional platform-level state information and contract information.
 * This is the definitive state that is stored on the ledger and used in transaction outputs.
data class TransactionState<out T : ContractState> @JvmOverloads constructor(
        /** The custom contract state */
        val data: T,
         * The contract class name that will verify this state that will be created via reflection.
         * The attachment containing this class will be automatically added to the transaction at transaction creation
         * time.
         * Currently these are loaded from the classpath of the node which includes the cordapp directory - at some
         * point these will also be loaded and run from the attachment store directly, allowing contracts to be
         * sent across, and run, from the network from within a sandbox environment.
        // TODO: Implement the contract sandbox loading of the contract attachments
        val contract: ContractClassName = requireNotNull(data.requiredContractClassName) {
            //TODO: add link to docsite page, when there is one.
    Unable to infer Contract class name because state class ${data::class.java.name} is not annotated with
    @BelongsToContract, and does not have an enclosing class which implements Contract. Either annotate ${data::class.java.name}
    with @BelongsToContract, or supply an explicit contract parameter to TransactionState().
    """.trimIndent().replace('\n', ' ')
        /** Identity of the notary that ensures the state is not used as an input to a transaction more than once */
        val notary: Party,
         * All contract states may be _encumbered_ by up to one other state.
         * The encumbrance state, if present, forces additional controls over the encumbered state, since the platform checks
         * that the encumbrance state is present as an input in the same transaction that consumes the encumbered state, and
         * the contract code and rules of the encumbrance state will also be verified during the execution of the transaction.
         * For example, a cash contract state could be encumbered with a time-lock contract state; the cash state is then only
         * processable in a transaction that verifies that the time specified in the encumbrance time-lock has passed.
         * The encumbered state refers to another by index, and the referred encumbrance state
         * is an output state in a particular position on the same transaction that created the encumbered state. An alternative
         * implementation would be encumbering by reference to a [StateRef], which would allow the specification of encumbrance
         * by a state created in a prior transaction.
         * Note that an encumbered state that is being consumed must have its encumbrance consumed in the same transaction,
         * otherwise the transaction is not valid.
        val encumbrance: Int? = null,
         * A validator for the contract attachments on the transaction.
        val constraint: AttachmentConstraint = AutomaticPlaceholderConstraint) {

    private companion object {
        val logger = loggerFor<TransactionState<*>>()

    init {
        when {
            data.requiredContractClassName == null -> logger.warn(
        State class ${data::class.java.name} is not annotated with @BelongsToContract,
        and does not have an enclosing class which implements Contract. Annotate ${data::class.java.simpleName}
        with @BelongsToContract(${contract.split("\\.\\$").last()}.class) to remove this warning.
        """.trimIndent().replace('\n', ' ')
            data.requiredContractClassName != contract -> logger.warn(
        State class ${data::class.java.name} belongs to contract ${data.requiredContractClassName},
        but is bundled with contract $contract in TransactionState. Annotate ${data::class.java.simpleName}
        with @BelongsToContract(${contract.split("\\.\\$").last()}.class) to remove this warning.
        """.trimIndent().replace('\n', ' ')


  • data is the state to be stored on-ledger
  • contract is the contract governing evolutions of this state
  • notary is the notary service for this state
  • encumbrance points to another state that must also appear as an input to any transaction consuming this state
  • constraint is a constraint on which contract-code attachments can be used with this state

A reference input state is a ContractState which can be referred to in a transaction by the contracts of input and output states but whose contract is not executed as part of the transaction verification process. Furthermore, reference states are not consumed when the transaction is committed to the ledger but they are checked for “current-ness”. In other words, the contract logic isn’t run for the referencing transaction only. It’s still a normal state when it occurs in an input or output position.

Reference data states enable many parties to reuse the same state in their transactions as reference data whilst still allowing the reference data state owner the capability to update the state. A standard example would be the creation of financial instrument reference data and the use of such reference data by parties holding the related financial instruments.

Just like regular input states, the chain of provenance for reference states is resolved and all dependency transactions verified. This is because users of reference data must be satisfied that the data they are referring to is valid as per the rules of the contract which governs it and that all previous participants of the state assented to updates of it.

Known limitations:

Notary change: It is likely the case that users of reference states do not have permission to change the notary assigned to a reference state. Even if users did have this permission the result would likely be a bunch of notary change races. As such, if a reference state is added to a transaction which is assigned to a different notary to the input and output states then all those inputs and outputs must be moved to the notary which the reference state uses.

If two or more reference states assigned to different notaries are added to a transaction then it follows that this transaction cannot be committed to the ledger. This would also be the case for transactions not containing reference states. There is an additional complication for transactions including reference states; it is however, unlikely that the party using the reference states has the authority to change the notary for the state (in other words, the party using the reference state would not be listed as a participant on it). Therefore, it is likely that a transaction containing reference states with two different notaries cannot be committed to the ledger.

As such, if reference states assigned to multiple different notaries are added to a transaction builder then the check below will fail.

A StatePointer contains a pointer to a ContractState. The StatePointer can be included in a ContractState as a property, or included in an off-ledger data structure. StatePointer s can be resolved to a StateAndRef by performing a look-up. There are two types of pointers; linear and static.

  • StaticPointer s are for use with any type of ContractState. The StaticPointer does as it suggests, it always points to the same ContractState.
  • The LinearPointer is for use with LinearStates. They are particularly useful because due to the way LinearStates work, the pointer will automatically point you to the latest version of a LinearState that the node performing resolve is aware of. In effect, the pointer “moves” as the LinearState is updated.

State pointers use Reference States to enable the functionality described above. They can be conceptualized as a mechanism to formalise a development pattern where one needs to refer to a specific state from another transaction (StaticPointer) or a particular lineage of states (LinearPointer). In other words, StatePointers do not enable a feature in Corda which was previously unavailable. Rather, they help to formalise a pattern which was already possible. In that light, it is worth noting some issues which you may encounter in its application:

  • If the node calling resolve has not seen any transactions containing a ContractState which the StatePointer points to, then resolve will throw an exception. Here, the node calling resolve might be missing some crucial data.
  • The node calling resolve for a LinearPointer may have seen and stored transactions containing a LinearState with the specified linearId. However, there is no guarantee the StateAndRef<T> returned by resolve is the most recent version of the LinearState. The node only returns the most recent version that it is aware of.

Resolving state pointers in TransactionBuilder

When building transactions, any StatePointer s contained within inputs or outputs added to a TransactionBuilder can be optionally resolved to reference states using the resolveStatePointers method. The effect is that the pointed to data is carried along with the transaction. This may or may not be appropriate in all circumstances, which is why calling the method is optional.

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