Sichuan opera is a vibrant art form that showcases the joys and challenges of daily life in rural China with tales of love, tradition, and family honour. It is the youngest form of Chinese opera, originating in China's Sichuan province at the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty (around 1700). The tradition suffered a setback during the Cultural Revolution, the period of persecution set into motion in May 1966 by Communist Party Chairman Mao tse-Tung to reassert his ideological authority. The operas were banned and most of the troupes were disbanded, but they were revived in the late 1970s.

Award-winning photographer Kevin Frayer travelled to Cangshan in Sichuan province to watch the Jinyuan Opera Company perform. He told IBTimes UK: "As a photographer it was a lovely experience. The performers were warm and inviting and I greatly admire their dedication to keeping this tradition alive."

Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Sichuan Opera performer Yi Lezhong, 65, smokes during a break backstage during a performance by the Jinyuan Opera Company for villagers at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Wu Yonghong, 26, of the Jinyuan Opera Company prepares backstage before performingKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Wu Yonghong, 26, prepares backstage before performing for villagers at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Wu Dezhi, 51, prepares during the group's performance at the Dongyue TempleKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Sichuan Opera performer Wu Yonghong, 26, prepares before a performanceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Yi Lezhong smokes a cigarette as Ling Qunying gets ready before the group's performanceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Sichuan Opera performer Wu Yonghong, 26, smokes as he waits during a performance by the Jinyuan Opera CompanyKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Wu Yonghong, 26, waits backstage as others perform for villagers at the Dongyue TempleKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Sichuan Opera performer Lin Lijuan, 69, prepares before the group's performance for villagers at the Dongyue TempleKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Li Qunying, 54, and Wu Yonghong, 26, rest backstage during a performance for villagers at the Dongyue TempleKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Sichuan Opera performer Wang Zhiwen, 69, rests backstage during the Jinyuan Opera Company's performanceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Sichuan Opera performer Wang Zhiwen, 69, smokes backstage as he takes a break during a performanceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Local villagers watch a Sichuan Opera performed by members of the Jinyuan Opera Company at the Dongyue TempleKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Lin Lijuan and husband Wang Zhiwen (both aged 69) perform with the Jinyuan Opera Company for villagers at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Wu Yonghong, 26, performs with the Jinyuan Opera Company at the Dongyue TempleKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Wang Zhiwen, 69, waits to enter the stage during the group's performance at the Dongyue TempleKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Yi Lezhing, 65, waits to enter the stage during the Jinyuan Opera Company's performance for villagers at the Dongyue Temple in CangshanKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
The Jinyuan Opera Company performs for villagers at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Fake beards used by Sichuan Opera performers from the Jinyuan Opera Company are seen backstage during a performanceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Yi Lezhong, 65, sleeps backstage during a performance for villagers at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Sichuan Opera performer Wu Yonghong, 26, holds his son on stage before the group's performanceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Sichuan Opera performer Wu Yonghong, 26, sits with wife Zhang Qingqing and son Wu XichenKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Performers of the Jinyuan Opera Company eat lunch during a break at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Sichuan Opera performer Lin Lijuan, 69, displays old pictures of herself in costumeKevin Frayer/Getty Images

As the traditional audience grows older, Sichuan opera is struggling to endure as younger generations are leaving the countryside for China's cities to seek employment. Frayer told IBTimes UK: "Watching the old villagers enjoying the once-a-year event was a privilege. You could feel that it was transporting them to a different time. For the few young people in the room you could sense that they were sharing in something important."

Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Local villagers watch a Jinyuan Opera Company performance at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Elderly villagers watch a performance by the Jinyuan Opera Company at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Local village men watch a performance by members of the Jinyuan Opera CompanyKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
A young girl sits near the stage during a performance by members of the Jinyuan Opera CompanyKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Lin Lijuan, 69, rehearses as village woman look on at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Local villagers watch the Jinyuan Opera Company perform at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
The rustic power supply box for sound and lighting is seen during the performance at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
A low cost portable speaker is seen on the belt of an actor from the Jinyuan Opera Company during a performance for villagers at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Performers from the Jinyuan Opera Company walk in a procession during a prayer ritual before the group's performance for villagers at the Dongyue Temple in Cangshan, Sichuan provinceKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Sichuan Opera performer Wu Dezhi, 51, performs a prayer ritual in front of statues of the Buddha before the group's performance for villagers at the Dongyue TempleKevin Frayer/Getty Images
Chinese opera Kevin Frayer
Members of the Jinyuan Opera Company perform a prayer ritual in front of statues of the Buddha at the Dongyue TempleKevin Frayer/Getty Images

Frayer said: "I felt as though I was watching through a a door slowly closing – but optimistic that the tradition will always find a place."