Chapter 4 - Object Wrapping

In many programming languages, we organize data structures in layers by nesting complex data structures in another data structure. In Move, you may do the same by putting a field of struct type in another, like the following:

struct Foo has key {
    id: UID,
    bar: Bar,

struct Bar has store {
    value: u64,

📖For a struct type to be capable of being embedded in a Sui object struct (which will have key ability), the embedded struct type must have the store ability.

In the above example, Bar is a normal Move struct, but it is not a Sui object, since it doesn't have the key ability. This is common usage when we just need to organize data with good encapsulation. In some cases, however, we want to put a Sui object struct type as a field in another Sui object struct type. In the above example, we may change Bar into:

struct Bar has key, store {
    id: UID,
    value: u64,

Now Bar is also a Sui object type. When we put a Sui object of type Bar into a Sui object of type Foo, the Sui object of type Bar is said to be wrapped by Foo (which we call the wrapper object or the wrapping object).

💡In Move code, it is also possible to put a Sui object as a field of a non-Sui object struct type. For example, in the above code sample, we can define Foo to not have key but Bar to have key, store. However, this case can happen only temporarily in the middle of a Move execution and cannot be persisted on-chain. This is because a non-Sui object cannot flow across the Move-Sui boundary, and one must unpack the non-Sui object at some point and deal with the Sui object fields in it.

There are some interesting consequences of wrapping a Sui object into another. When an object is wrapped, this object no longer exists independently on-chain. We will no longer be able to look up this object by its ID. This object becomes part of the data of the object that wraps it. Most importantly, we can no longer pass the wrapped object as an argument in any way in Move calls. The only access point is through the wrapping object.

💡The fact that you can no longer use a wrapped Sui object means that it's impossible to create circular wrapping behavior, where A wraps B, B wraps C, and C also wraps A.

At some point, you can then take out the wrapped object and transfer it to an address. This process is called unwrapping. When an object is unwrapped, it will become an independent object again, and can be accessed directly on-chain. There is also an important property about wrapping and unwrapping: the object's ID stays the same across wrapping and unwrapping!

There are a few common ways to wrap a Sui object into another Sui object, and their use cases are typically different. In the following, we will walk through three different ways to wrap a Sui object and their typical use cases.

Direct wrapping

When we put a Sui object type directly as a field in another Sui object type (just like how we put Bar as field bar in Foo), it is called direct wrapping. The most important property achieved through direct wrapping is the following: The wrapped object cannot be unwrapped unless we destroy the wrapping object. In the example above, in order to make bar a standalone object again, one has to delete (and hence unpack) the Foo object. Because of this property, direct wrapping is the best way to implement object locking: lock an object with constrained access, and one can unlock it only through specific contract calls.

Let's walk through an example implementation of a trusted swap to demonstrate how to use direct wrapping. Let's say there is an NFT-style Object type that has scarcity and style. scarcity determines how rare the object is (presumably the more scarce the higher its market value); style determines the object content/type or how it's rendered. Let's say you own some of these objects and want to trade your objects with others. But to make sure it's a fair trade, you are willing to trade an object only with another one that has identical scarcity but different style (so that you can collect more styles).

First of all, let's define such an object type:

struct Object has key, store {
    id: UID,
    scarcity: u8,
    style: u8,

In a real application, we probably would make sure that there is a limited supply of the objects and there is a mechanism to mint them to a list of owners. For simplicity and demonstration purposes, here we will just make it straightforward to create:

public entry fun create_object(scarcity: u8, style: u8, ctx: &mut TxContext) {
    let object = Object {
        id: object::new(ctx),
    transfer::transfer(object, tx_context::sender(ctx))

Anyone can call create_object to create a new object with specified scarcity and style. The created object will be sent to the signer of the transaction. We will likely also want to be able to transfer the object to others:

public entry fun transfer_object(object: Object, recipient: address) {
    transfer::transfer(object, recipient)

Now let's look at how we could enable a swap/trade between your object and others' objects. A straightforward idea is this: define a function that takes two objects from two addresses and swaps their ownership. But this doesn't work in Sui! Recall from chapter 2 that only object owners can send a transaction to mutate the object. So one person cannot send a transaction that would swap their own object with someone else's object.

In the future, we will likely introduce multi-sig transactions so that two people can sign the same transaction for this type of use case. However, you may not always be able to find someone to swap with right away. A multi-sig transaction won't work in this scenario. Even if you can, you may not want to carry the burden of finding a swap target.

Another common solution is to "send" your object to a pool (e.g. a marketplace in the case of NFT, or a liquidity pool in the case of tokens), and perform the swap in the pool (either right away, or later when there is demand). In future chapters, we will explore the concept of shared objects that can be mutated by anyone and show that how it enables anyone to operate in a shared object pool. In this chapter, we will focus on how to achieve the same effect using owned objects. Transactions using only owned objects are faster and cheaper (in terms of gas) than using shared objects, since they do not require consensus in Sui.

To be able to perform a swap of objects, both objects must be owned by the same address. We can imagine that a third party builds infrastructure to provide swap services. Anyone who wants to swap their object can send their objects to the third party, and the third party will help perform the swap and send the objects back. But we don't fully trust the third party and don't want to give them full custody of our objects. To achieve this, we can use direct wrapping. We define a wrapper object type as following:

struct ObjectWrapper has key {
    id: UID,
    original_owner: address,
    to_swap: Object,
    fee: Balance<SUI>,

ObjectWrapper defines a Sui object type, wraps the object that we want to swap as to_swap, and tracks the original owner of the object in original_owner. To make this more interesting and realistic, we can also expect that we may need to pay the third party some fee for this swap. Below we define an interface to request a swap by someone who owns an Object:

public entry fun request_swap(object: Object, fee: Coin<SUI>, service_address: address, ctx: &mut TxContext) {
    assert!(coin::value(&fee) >= MIN_FEE, 0);
    let wrapper = ObjectWrapper {
        id: object::new(ctx),
        original_owner: tx_context::sender(ctx),
        to_swap: object,
        fee: coin::into_balance(fee),
    transfer::transfer(wrapper, service_address);

In the above entry function, to request swapping an object, one must pass the object by value so that it's fully consumed and wrapped into ObjectWrapper. A fee (in the type of Coin<SUI>) is also provided. The function also checks that the fee is sufficient. Note that we turn Coin into Balance when putting it into the wrapper object. This is because Coin is a Sui object type and used only to pass around as Sui objects (e.g. as entry function arguments or objects sent to addresses). For coin balances that need to be embedded in another Sui object struct, we use Balance instead because it's not a Sui object type and hence is much cheaper to use. The wrapper object is then sent to the service operator, whose address is also specified in the call as service_address.

Although the service operator (service_address) now owns the ObjectWrapper, which contains the object to be swapped, the service operator still cannot access or steal the underlying wrapped Object. This is because the transfer_object function we defined requires the caller to pass an Object into it; but the service operator cannot access the wrapped Object, and passing ObjectWrapper to the transfer_object function would be invalid. Recall that an object can be read or modified only by the module in which it is defined; because this module defines only a wrapping / packing function (request_swap), and not an unwrapping / unpacking function, the service operator has no way to unpack the ObjectWrapper to retrieve the wrapped Object. Furthermore, ObjectWrapper itself lacks any defined transfer method, so the service operator cannot transfer the wrapped object to someone else either.

Finally, let's define the function that the service operator can call in order to perform a swap between two objects sent from two addresses. The function interface will resemble:

public entry fun execute_swap(wrapper1: ObjectWrapper, wrapper2: ObjectWrapper, ctx: &mut TxContext);

Where wrapper1 and wrapper2 are two wrapped objects that were sent from different object owners to the service operator. (Hence, the service operator owns both.) Both wrapped objects are passed by value because they will eventually need to be unpacked. We first check that the swap is indeed legit:

assert!(wrapper1.to_swap.scarcity == wrapper2.to_swap.scarcity, 0);
assert!( !=, 0);

It checks that the two objects have identical scarcity, but have different style, perfect pair for a swap. Next we unpack the two objects to obtain the inner fields. By doing so, we unwrap the objects:

let ObjectWrapper {
    id: id1,
    original_owner: original_owner1,
    to_swap: object1,
    fee: fee1,
} = wrapper1;

let ObjectWrapper {
    id: id2,
    original_owner: original_owner2,
    to_swap: object2,
    fee: fee2,
} = wrapper2;

We now have all the things we need for the actual swap:

transfer::transfer(object1, original_owner2);
transfer::transfer(object2, original_owner1);

The above code does the swap: it sends object1 to the original owner of object2, and sends object1 to the original owner of object2. The service provider is also happy to take the fee:

let service_address = tx_context::sender(ctx);
balance::join(&mut fee1, fee2);
transfer::transfer(coin::from_balance(fee1, ctx), service_address);

fee2 is merged into fee1, turned into a Coin and sent to the service_address. Finally, we signal Sui that we have deleted both wrapper objects:


At the end of this call, the two objects have been swapped (sent to the opposite owner) and the service provider takes the service fee.

Since the contract defined only one way to deal with ObjectWrapper - execute_swap - there is no other way the service operator can interact with ObjectWrapper despite its ownership.

The full source code can be found in trusted_swap.move.

A more complex example of using direct wrapping can be found in escrow.move.

Wrapping through Option

When Sui object type Bar is directly wrapped into Foo, there is not much flexibility: a Foo object must have a Bar object in it, and in order to take out the Bar object one must destroy the Foo object. However, there are cases where we want more flexibility: the wrapping type may or may not always have the wrapped object in it, and the wrapped object may be replaced with a different object at some point.

Let's demonstrate this use case by designing a simple game character: A warrior with a sword and shield. A warrior may or may not have a sword and shield, and they should be able to replace them anytime. To design this, we define a SimpleWarrior type as following:

struct SimpleWarrior has key {
    id: UID,
    sword: Option<Sword>,
    shield: Option<Shield>,

Each SimpleWarrior type has an optional sword and shield wrapped in it, defined as:

struct Sword has key, store {
    id: UID,
    strength: u8,

struct Shield has key, store {
    id: UID,
    armor: u8,

When we are creating a new warrior, we can set the sword and shield to none to indicate there is no equipment yet:

public entry fun create_warrior(ctx: &mut TxContext) {
    let warrior = SimpleWarrior {
        id: object::new(ctx),
        sword: option::none(),
        shield: option::none(),
    transfer::transfer(warrior, tx_context::sender(ctx))

With this, we can then define functions to equip new swords or new shields:

public entry fun equip_sword(warrior: &mut SimpleWarrior, sword: Sword, ctx: &mut TxContext) {
    if (option::is_some(&warrior.sword)) {
        let old_sword = option::extract(&mut warrior.sword);
        transfer::transfer(old_sword, tx_context::sender(ctx));
    option::fill(&mut warrior.sword, sword);

In the above function, we are passing a warrior as mutable reference of SimpleWarrior, and a sword passed by value because we need to wrap it into the warrior.

It is important to note that because Sword is a Sui object type without drop ability, if the warrior already has a sword equipped, that sword cannot just be dropped. If we make a call to option::fill without first checking and taking out the existing sword, a runtime error may occur. Hence in equip_sword, we first check if there is already a sword equipped, and if so, we take it out and send it back to the sender. This matches what you would expect when you equip a new sword--you get the old sword back, if there is one.

Full code can be found in simple_warrior.move.

You can also find a more complex example in hero.move.

Wrapping through vector

The concept of wrapping objects in a vector field of another Sui object is very similar to wrapping through Option: an object may contain 0, 1 or many of the wrapped objects of the same type.

We won't use a full example to demonstrate this use case, but wrapping through vector may resemble:

struct Pet has key, store {
    id: UID,
    cuteness: u64,

struct Farm has key {
    id: UID,
    pets: vector<Pet>,

In the above example, a vector of Pets are wrapped in Farm and can be accessed only through the Farm object.

Last update 9/14/2022, 11:15:02 PM