Authorities published photos Thursday of Bo, who hadn't been seen in public since he was stripped of his high-ranking party posts in April 2012. One image showed him standing at the dock in a white, long-sleeved shirt, flanked by two tall uniformed police officers.
His hands, clasped in front of him, were not in handcuffs, and he appeared little changed compared with pictures taken before he disappeared from public view.
The court published what it said was a dialogue between Bo and the chief judge in which the defendant was cited as saying he hoped the court "can hear my case reasonably and fairly, as well as following our country's legal procedure."
The chief judge replied that the court "understands your concerns, and will use our legal authority fairly and in accordance to the law."
Bo's spectacular downfall -- complete with tales of murder, corruption and betrayal -- set off the Communist Party's biggest political crisis in decades.
His wife is in prison. Their son, living in the United States, says he hasn't spoken to his parents in a year and half.
Five members of Bo's family were in the public gallery at the trial Thursday, state media reported without providing their names. They were joined by 105 other people, including 19 journalists.
A career unravels
Bo is a princeling, a term that refers to the children of revolutionary veterans who boast of political connections and influence. His late father, Bo Yibo, was a revolutionary contemporary of Mao and former leader Deng Xiaoping.
Over the past three decades, Bo rose to power as a city mayor, provincial governor, minister of commerce and member of the Politburo, the powerful policymaking body of the Communist Party.
A charismatic and urbane politician, Bo was credited with a spectacular, albeit brutal, crackdown on organized crime during his time in Chongqing.
But when his deputy, Wang Lijun, walked into the U.S. Consulate in the city of Chengdu in February of last year and told American diplomats that Bo's wife, Gu, was an accomplice in a murder case, a glittering political career began to unravel.
Wang's move precipitated Bo's political demise. Soon after news of the events began to emerge, Bo was removed from his party posts.
A court found Gu guilty last year of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood in a Chongqing hotel room in 2011. A family employee, Zhang Xiaojun, was also convicted in the killing and sentenced to nine years in prison.
The following month, Wang was convicted of bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking. He received a 15-year prison sentence.
The last chapter?
Bo's trial is seen as a potentially concluding chapter in the scandal.
Authorities haven't said how long it will last. But with only part of the charges reportedly addressed in the first day, it appears it could go on for longer than the two days some observers had predicted.
Under the bribery indictment, prosecutors accuse Bo of using his political posts to secure influence for others. They say that between 2000 and 2012, Bo, Gu and their son, Bo Guagua, received about 22 million renminbi ($3.6 million) in bribes from Tang and Xu, the Dalian businessmen.
The embezzlement charge alleges that Bo and Gu transferred 5 million renminbi of public money from a construction project in Dalian to a private account through a law firm in Beijing.
And the abuse of power indictment relates to Bo's actions after he was informed about his wife's involvement in the killing of Heywood and Wang's attempted defection to the United States.