Previously I've written about how to use JSON fixtures in Django migrations. This becomes a bit more complicated when you have ManyToMany fields in your models. A corner case is when you have a ManyToMany relation to self. The example below comes from django-chartit.

class Book(models.Model):
    title = models.CharField(max_length=50)
    rating = models.FloatField()
    rating_count = models.IntegerField()
    authors = models.ManyToManyField(Author)
    publisher = models.ForeignKey(Publisher, null=True, blank=True, on_delete=models.SET_NULL)
    published_at = models.DateTimeField(null=True, blank=True)
    related = models.ManyToManyField('self', blank=True)
    genre = models.ForeignKey(Genre, null=True, blank=True, on_delete=models.SET_NULL)

The fields authors and related are represented as separate tables and are computed when you access objects from this model. Django automatically handles these fields and creates classes for them. Before you can use them, you need a reference to their model classes.

Book = apps.get_model("demoproject", "Book")
BookRelated = None
BookAuthors = None
for relation in Book._meta.many_to_many:
    if == 'related':
            BookRelated = relation.remote_field.through
        except AttributeError:
            # available in Django 1.8
            BookRelated = relation.rel.through

    if == 'authors':
            BookAuthors = relation.remote_field.through
        except AttributeError:
            # available in Django 1.8
            BookAuthors = relation.rel.through

The JSON data looks like this

{ "fields" : {
    "authors" : [  ],
    "genre_id" : 4,
    "publisher_id" : 3,
    "rating" : 3.8999999999999999,
    "rating_count" : 1869,
    "related" : [ 10 ],
    "title" : "Freakonomics"
"model" : "Book",
"pk" : 9
{ "fields" : {
    "authors" : [ 24 ],
    "genre_id" : 5,
    "publisher_id" : 9,
    "rating" : 4.4000000000000004,
    "rating_count" : 222,
    "related" : [ 23, 21 ],
    "title" : "Hyperspace"
"model" : "Book",
"pk" : 24

Once we have our related model classes we proceed to store the data in the database like so

# create Book objects
for record in json_data:
    # skip everything which isn't a book
    if record['model'] != 'Book':

    # build a list of book authors using the intermediate BookAuthors model
    for author_id in record['fields']['authors']:
        author_obj = BookAuthors()
        author_obj.book_id = record['pk']
        author_obj.author_id = author_id
    # you can't save the `authors` field directly in DB
    del record['fields']['authors']

    # build a list of related books using the intermediate BookRelated model
    for related_id in record['fields']['related']:
        related_obj = BookRelated()
        related_obj.from_book_id = record['pk']
        related_obj.to_book_id = related_id
    # you can't save the `related` field directly in DB
    del record['fields']['related']

    # finally save the Book object
    model_class = apps.get_model("demoproject", record['model'])
    obj = model_class(**record['fields']) = record['pk']

This works well for django-chartit. You should take care to remove the ManyToMany fields from the JSON data because they don't actually exist in the Book class and Django will raise an exception if you try to assign to them.

I hope you like my work and please subscribe to Mr. Senko's support service should you need commercial support for this or other open source libraries!

tags: Python, Django,

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