PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has visited Beijing's historic Forbidden City at the start of his State visit to China.
Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina received a warm welcome when they arrived in the Asian superpower where they were greeted by Irish ambassador Paul Kavanagh and were presented with flowers by local children.
He also met with Wang Chao, the Chinese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The president is being accompanied by Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan in what is being seen as a major trade mission to the booming eastern giant.
The highlight of the visit will be the State dinner hosted by China's President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan tomorrow evening.
Other important engagements on the schedule for the eight-day visit include a business breakfast which is being hosted by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland tomorrow morning in Beijing.
Aras an Uachtaran has said that the main aim is to "deepen the political, cultural, business, scientific and educational relationships between the two countries".
Today Mr and Mrs Higgins will visit the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Arts in Beijing, and later they will attend a concert with performances from Sharon Shannon and other Irish artists.
Tomorrow the President will also witness the signing of a 'Memorandum of Understanding' between NUI Galway and Tsinghua University.
On Wednesday they will move to Shanghai, where the President will meet with the country's premier, Mr Li Keqiang, in the Great Hall of the People.
Observers will be watching closely to see if Mr Higgins makes any references to China's human rights record during the visit.
Although the president traditionally avoids making political statements, Mr Higgins is a well-known human rights activist, and in 2006 he was appointed as an honorary lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway.