This paper addresses sustainable rural village development in China. Rural development is unlike the process of urbanization in Chinese cities and reflects different land ownership rules and different organizational structures. Even though there are an increasing number of Chinese residents in cities, there are still more than 600 million people living in the countryside. The attention lavished on city development has been, in part, now refocused to rural villages. Since 2006, the support for large-scale investment in the countryside has created much change; however, not all of this change is well organized, with potential for less than optimum impacts on the environment and sustainability. The paper identifies the key influences and drivers from historic and contemporary points of view. The sustainability of the villages will derive from long-term self-sufficiency, and this must include the understanding of environmental design principles, which enable suitable dwelling design. Two villages are taken as contrasting examples, and information derived from other sources is discussed. Technologies and techniques that can help determine environmental design priorities are evaluated and directions for future development suggested. This includes development of a design support aid with key drivers of: orientation and site location, window design and key construction features.