Kelzang Gyatso (1708–57), the seventh Dalai Lama, was born in the basement of this house during a period of intense political struggle. He eventually grew into a visionary leader, and under his rule Tibet established a national archive, instituted civil-service training programs and formalised the Tibetan government structure. The house, built in the 16th century, is now Lǐtáng's best-preserved temple. While the building is officially open from 8am to 7pm, in practice hours are erratic.
Not all Tibetans shared the belief Gyatso was the reincarnate; to escape the ongoing civil war, the Dalai Lama was raised and educated largely in exile. Qing Emperor Kangxi issued a proclamation affirming his identity, and in 1720 sent his son and troops to install the Dalai Lama to power in Lhasa. Mongol uprisings, rebellions and several coups later, the Dalai Lama gained the support of the clergy and the people.
The main house is a series of rooms crowded with devotees lost in prayer, and displays of sacred relics of the Dalai Lama and the 13 other lamas born here. You may have to ask to see his actual birthplace, which is behind a door to the left of the entrance.
To get here, walk along Genie Xilu (格聂西路) after turning left past the China Post and just before King Gesar Sq (格萨尔广场; Gésà'ĕr Guăngchăng). Turn right onto Renkang Gujie (仁康古街) into the passage between No 72 and No 74 (marked by a number of large stones inscribed with Tibetan script).