MySQL Insert Unicode Problem

John Nagle nagle at
Mon Apr 9 23:59:47 CEST 2007

erikcw wrote:
> Hi,
> I'm trying to insert some data from an XML file into MySQL.  However,
> while importing one of the files, I got this error:
> Traceback (most recent call last):
>   File "", line 304, in ?
>     main()
>   File "", line 257, in main
>     curHandler.walkData()
>   File "", line 112, in walkData
>     self.cursor.execute(*sql) #try multi-execute to speed up query.
>   File "build/bdist.linux-i686/egg/MySQLdb/", line 151, in
> execute
>   File "build/bdist.linux-i686/egg/MySQLdb/", line 247,
> in literal
>   File "build/bdist.linux-i686/egg/MySQLdb/", line 185,
> in unicode_literal
> UnicodeEncodeError: 'latin-1' codec can't encode character u'\u20ac'
> in position 28: ordinal not in range(256)
> What do I need to change to make this work?
> Thanks!
> Erik

    MySQL does Unicode quite well, but Unicode is not the default.  Getting
all the defaults right is a pain.  It looks like you have MySQL,
or MySQLdb, or the connection between them in "latin1" mode.

    The database server has to support Unicode, which is a build option
and a version issue.  Do a

    SHOW VARIABLES LIKE "character_set%"

Ideally, you should see the character sets for client, connection,
database, results, server, and system all as "utf8".  You might not,
given the problem you're having, but that can be dealt with.
Those are just defaults.

    The field you're storing into has to be in Unicode mode, which
can either be set explicitly with CREATE TABLE or can come from the
default for the server, database, or table.  It's usually easier
to use UTF8 for everything in the database, unless you have legacy
database issues.

    Try this in SQL:


If you can't execute that statement, assuming you have permissions
to do so, then your MySQL isn't configured to support Unicode.
(If you're on a shared server, you might have to use ALTER TABLE
instead; you may not have ALTER DATABASE permission.)

Once you've done that, all tables created after that point will have
Unicode text fields.  You can also use ALTER TABLE on existing tables,
if you need to convert their format, or create tables with

    The connection to the MySQL server has to be in Unicode mode.
This is separate from the server's mode and the table mode.
And MySQLdb has to be in Unicode mode, which is separate from
the connection mode. MySQLdb doesn't know what the server is doing;
you have to tell it what you want.

    Try something like this to connect to the server:

	db = MySQLdb.connect(host="localhost",
		use_unicode = True, charset = "utf8",
		user=username, passwd=password, db=database)

You need to specify both "use_unicode" (which sets the
mode in MySQLdb), and "charset" (which sets the connection mode).

Once you've put all the components into these modes, you
should have end-to-end Unicode database capability.

				John Nagle

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