A facile strategy to synthesize water-soluble fluorescent gold nanoclusters (Au NCs) stabilized with the bidentate ligand dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA) is reported. The DHLA-capped Au NCs are characterized by UV-vis absorption spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. The Au NCs possess many attractive features including ultrasmall size, bright near-infrared luminescence, high colloidal stability, and good biocompatibility, making them promising imaging agents for biomedical and cellular imaging applications. Moreover, their long fluorescence lifetime (>100 ns) makes them attractive as labels in fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) applications. As an example, the internalization of Au NCs by live HeLa cells is visualized using the FLIM technique.