Jump rope is not usually considered a death-defying pastime, except when you are using an angry snake for a rope. But for two petite 23-year-old women in southern China, it was one of the many tricks performed for onlookers while locked in a glass room with 888 snakes.

Swallowing snakes the size of chopsticks and regurgitating them live or lying under dozens of heavy boas were also part of the act during the 12 days that Qian Linping and Ni Junfang spent with the serpents in a 320-square-foot enclosure.But the hardest part, Ni said, was keeping the 666 deadly cobras from attacking the 222 non-poisonous snakes in the enclosure, not to mention the women themselves.

"The cobras always wanted to fight with the non-poisonous ones, and sometimes they would try to bite us," Ni said.

One night 150 snakes died from cobra attacks, and during the 12-day event that ended on November 13, up to 800 snakes had to be replaced.

Qian said she was a changed woman after her serpentine experience, especially after surviving two cobra bites.

Her knee blew up to the size of a grapefruit after it was bitten while she slept on the first night, and her hand was fanged a few days later, but in both cases she was able to treat herself with an antidote the women kept with them.

"In the past I always thought I was a weakling, but after I was able to heal myself from the snake bites so smoothly I now have the ability to do many other things," she said.

Much maligned in the West, the snake is revered as one of the 12 animal signs of the Chinese zodiac, and serpents also figure in a slew of Chinese cuisines and medicines.

The number 888 was chosen because the word "eight" sounds like "fortune" in Chinese.

The stunt, organized by the Flying Dragon Amusement Park, a snake park in the south China city of Panyu, was aimed at propelling the two women into the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest period of human captivity with snakes.

However, no such Guinness category exists.

The project would also aid research for the park, which has a lucrative business on the side selling medicines made from snakes, said Qian's father and park founder Qian Longfei.

"After 12 days they should be looking tired, but look at their skin and eyes," he said, pointing to the healthy glow on the women's faces despite their fatigue.

The two women could sleep just three to four hours a day during their 12-day captivity as the snakes ranging up to about 10 feet in length slithered over them in bed.