Four kinds of optical measurements were performed to investigate the process of soot formation and oxidation in a direct-injection (DI) diesel engine. Measurements were carried out in an optically accessible DI diesel engine that allows planar laser sheet for combustion diagnostics to enter the combustion chamber either horizontally or along the axis of the fuel jet. The temporal and spatial distribution of soot particles has been investigated using the laser- induced incandescence (LII) and high-speed direct photography. Fuel vapor concentration, which is directly linked to the soot formation process in diesel combustion, has been deduced from the images obtained by the measurements of laser shadowgraph and elastic Mie scattering. According to the experimental results, soot formation begins to occur near the injector nozzle in which a fuel-rich mixture is distributed with a homogeneous condition. LII signal is dominated by the fuel vapor concentration in initial combustion period. The distribution of soot particles in diffusion combustion events becomes very irregular compared to premixed combustion due to its oxidation process and turbulence effect of swirl flow. Soot particles are formed when the temperature is low, and the oxidation process of soot particles is dominated by the soot temperature and swirl effect.