The Chinese population has been aging rapidly and the country's economy has experienced exponential growth during the past three decades. The goal of this study was to estimate the changes in the prevalence of dementia, Alzheimer's disease (AD), and vascular dementia (VaD) among elderly Chinese individuals and to analyze differences between urban and rural areas. For the years 2008 to 2009, we performed a population-based cross-sectional survey with a multistage cluster sampling design. Residents aged 65 years and older were drawn from 30 urban (n = 6096) and 45 rural (n = 4180) communities across China. Participants were assessed with a series of clinical examinations and neuropsychological measures. Dementia, AD, and VaD were diagnosed according to established criteria via standard diagnostic procedures. The prevalence of dementia, AD, and VaD among individuals aged 65 years and older were 5.14% (95% CI, 4.71-5.57), 3.21% (95% CI, 2.87-3.55), and 1.50% (95% CI, 1.26-1.74), respectively. The prevalence of dementia was significantly higher in rural areas than in urban ones (6.05% vs. 4.40%, P < .001). The same regional difference was also seen for AD (4.25% vs. 2.44%, P < .001) but not for VaD (1.28% vs. 1.61%, P = .166). The difference in AD was not evident when the sample was stratified by educational level. Moreover, the risk factors for AD and VaD differed for urban and rural populations. A notably higher prevalence of dementia and AD was found in rural areas than in urban ones, and education might be an important reason for the urban-rural differences. Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Inc.