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According to https://www.easyatm.com.tw/wiki/%E4%B8%89%E5%88%86%E9%A1%8F%E8%89%B2%E4%B8%8A%E5%A4%A7%E7%B4%85 it is stated as:

字面意思:給三分顏色你就可以上大紅色,就等於不自量力,自大。明明做不到這事情都說可以做到,人家給三分顏色就想染大紅色,染得到嗎?

後來形容:人家給對方一點好處或者臉色、讚揚等,對方以為自己很了不起,其實自己一點都不行

meaning:

apparent meaning: give you 30% of color and you think can dye the cloth 100% red

used later as: people praise another person a little but and he/she thinks he/she is so awesome, but in fact the person is not that capable of doing things

but are these all the meanings? I thought I have seen it more often nowadays as,

treating a woman a little bit nicely and she thinks now she is the queen or the master of the house (or the second master of the house)

I have also seen similar versions, used in Taiwan nowadays:

得了三分顏色, 就要開染坊

getting some color, and want to open up a dye factory

but in fact it goes all the way back 400 years ago:

《金瓶梅詞話》五八:“漢子在屋裡睡了一夜兒,得了些顏色兒,就開起染坊來了。”

清·張春帆《宦海》一八:“不想這些匡主政也是個得了三分顏色,就要開染坊的朋友,見宣制軍如此,只道宣制軍怕他,一天一天的驕傲起來。”

the guys slept for a little bit; having got some color, he is opening up a dye factory

they are also people who got some color and want to open up a dye factory. Thinking the other army is afraid of them, they are becoming prouder every day

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  • It's an obsolete phrase to me. It's not used that often nowadays. I live in mainland, so I'm not sure about other regions.
    – dan
    Sep 28 at 10:30
  • it actually might be more southern... used quite a bit in Taiwan nowadays, for example. In Hong Kong, most everybody knows what it means. If it is somebody asking what it means, it may be a 10 year old hearing it, not understand what it means, and about to ask his parents. Sep 28 at 10:42
  • Never heard of 三分顏色上大紅. It is correct, in Taiwan, it is always "給你三分顏色就想開染坊了". It basic means 一個捧不起的人.
    – r13
    Sep 28 at 13:35
  • in Hong Kong, it is always 三分顏色上大紅。No wonder famous people like 沈玉琳 always says 給你三分顏色就想開染坊了 — he was not using a "new way of saying it", because it has always been like that in Taiwan Sep 29 at 5:33
  • @StefanieGauss I believe it is not just in Taiwan, but entire China before it turned "red".
    – r13
    Sep 29 at 14:34
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給你三分顏色就想開染坊了。

包含有得寸进尺和不自量力的意思。
It includes the meanings "give him an inch and he'll want a mile" plus "overestimate oneself"

三分颜色开不了染坊,说明你不知深浅。
You can't open a dyeing shop with just with three colours, will say, you don't know your limits.

大概意思就是别太得意了,或者是别得寸进尺。
The rough meaning is "don't be too proud", or "given an inch, you will want a mile."

不知量力!
(You) don't know your own strengths and weaknesses!

意思就是说你太看得起你自己了!
In other words, the meaning is, you think very highly of yourself!

就是容忍你一下你就不知好歹开始放肆了。
If we allow you, you, unable to differentiate good from bad, will start acting recklessly.

做人要知足,太过了就会莣人厌,
Proper behaviour demands one be content with ones situation,
太过了就会惹人厌。
excessive behaviour will provoke dislike.

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吹捧你几句,你就自以为是了~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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