Rapid urbanization in China resulted in different architectural characteristics between the rural (traditional, more open to external environment) and urban (modern, relatively closed to external environment) residential building stock. Such differences can influence the way residents regulate indoor thermal environment to maintain their comfort, particularly in hot summer and cold winter (HSCW) climate. This study aims to better understand the differences in the perceptions of thermal comfort and related adaptive behaviours between urban and rural residents. Thermal comfort field experiments are conducted in the central region of China that has climatic characteristics of HSCW. A total of 513 and 2171 survey responses have been collected and matched with concurrent environmental measurements in typical residential buildings in Wuhan city (urban) and Luotuoao village (rural), respectively. The majority of survey respondents accept their indoor thermal environments, even though instrumentally measured physical conditions fall well beyond the comfort zone prescribed in the international standards. The differences of indoor thermal comfort between rural and urban residents are attributed to clothing habits, daily activity patterns, housing openness and potential thermal expectation. Results also indicate that rural residents tend to be more tolerant of cold conditions in winter but less tolerant of hot conditions in summer, compared to the urban residents. The findings are helpful in optimizing housing design in HSCW climate region in order to improve indoor thermal conditions.