Number: "0006"
Category: Standards Track
Status: Proposal
Author: Ke Wang
Organization: Nervos Foundation
Created: 2018-12-01

Merkle Tree for Static Data

Complete Binary Merkle Tree

CKB uses Complete Binary Merkle Tree(CBMT) to generate Merkle Root and Merkle Proof for a static list of items. Currently, CBMT is used to calculate Transactions Root. Basically, CBMT is a complete binary tree, in which every level, except possibly the last, is completely filled, and all nodes are as far left as possible. And it is also a full binary tree, in which every node other than the leaves has two children. Compare with other Merkle trees, the hash computation of CBMT is minimal, as well as the proof size.

Nodes Organization

For the sake of illustration, we order the tree nodes from top to bottom and left to right starting at zero. In CBMT with n items, root is the first node, and the first item's hash is node 0, second is node n+1, etc. We choose this nodes organization because it is easy to calculate the node order for an item.

For example, CBMT with 6 items(suppose the hashes are [T0, T1, T2, T3, T4, T5]) and CBMT with 7 items(suppose the hashes are [T0, T1, T2, T3, T4, T5, T6]) is shown below:

        with 6 items                       with 7 items

              B0 -- node 0                       B0 -- node 0
             /  \                               /  \
           /      \                           /      \
         /          \                       /          \
       /              \                   /              \
      B1 -- node 1    B2 -- node 2       B1 -- node 1    B2 -- node 2
     /  \            /  \               /  \            /  \
    /    \          /    \             /    \          /    \
   /      \        /      \           /      \        /      \
  B3(3)   B4(4)  TO(5)    T1(6)      B3(3)   B4(4)   B5(5)   T0(6)
 /  \    /  \                       /  \    /  \    /  \
T2  T3  T4  T5                     T1  T2  T3  T4  T5  T6
(7) (8) (9) (10)                   (7) (8) (9)(10)(11) (12)

Specially, the tree with 0 item is empty(0 node) and its root is H256::zero.

Tree Struct

CBMT can be represented in a very space-efficient way, using an array alone. Nodes in the array are presented in ascending order.

For example, the two trees above can be represented as:

// an array with 11 elements, the first element is node 0(BO), second is node 1, etc.
[B0, B1, B2, B3, B4, T0, T1, T2, T3, T4, T5]

// an array with 13 elements, the first element is node 0(BO), second is node 1, etc.
[B0, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, T0, T1, T2, T3, T4, T5, T6]

Suppose a CBMT with n items, the size of the array would be 2n-1, the index of item i(start at 0) is i+n-1. For node at i, the index of its parent is (i-1)/2, the index of its sibling is (i+1)^1-1(^ is xor) and the indexes of its children are [2i+1, 2i+2].

Merkle Proof

Merkle Proof can provide a proof for existence of one or more items. Only sibling of the nodes along the path that form leaves to root, excluding the nodes already in the path, should be included in the proof. We also specify that the nodes in the proof is presented in descending order(with this, algorithms of proof's generation and verification could be much simple). Indexes of item that need to prove are essential to complete the root calculation, since the index is not the inner feature of item, so the indexes are also included in the proof, and in order to get the correct correspondence, we specify that the indexes are presented in ascending order by corresponding hash. For example, if we want to show that [T1, T4] is in the list of 6 items above, only nodes [T5, T0, B3] and indexes [9, 6] should be included in the proof.

Proof Structure

The schema of proof struct is:

table Proof {
  // indexes of items
  indexes: [uint32];
  // nodes on the path which can not be calculated, in descending order by index
  nodes: [H256];

Algorithm of proof generation

Proof gen_proof(Hash tree[], U32 indexes[]) {
  Hash nodes[];
  U32 tree_indexes[];
  Queue queue;

  int size = len(tree) >> 1 + 1;

  for index in indexes {
    queue.push_back(index + size - 1);

  while(queue is not empty) {
    int index = queue.pop_front();
    int sibling = calculate_sibling(index);

    if(sibling == queue.front()) {
    } else {

    int parent = calculate_parent(index);
    if(parent != 0) {

  add (size-1) for every index in indexes;
  sort indexes in ascending order by corresponding hash;

  return Proof::new(indexes, nodes);

Algorithm of validation

bool validate_proof(Proof proof, Hash root, Item items[]) {
  Queue queue;

  for (index,item) in (proof.indexes, items) {
    queue.push_back((item.hash(), index));


  int i = 0;
  while(queue is not empty) {
    Hash hash, hash1, hash2;
    int index1, index2;

    (hash1, index1) = queue.pop_front();
    (hash2, index2) = queue.front();
    int sibling = calculate_sibling(index1);

    if(sibling == index2) {
      hash = merge(hash2, hash1);
    } else {
      hash2 = proof.nodes[i++];

      if(is_left_node(index1)) {
        hash = merge(hash1, hash2);
      } else {
        hash = merge(hash2, hash1);

    int parent = calculate_parent(index);
    if(parent == 0) {
      return root == hash;
    queue.push_back((hash, parent))

  return false;